Recent research shows that stem cell therapy may have the ability to slow the progression of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a nervous system disease that affects roughly 2 per 100,000 individuals in the United States each year. In this article we discuss how mesenchymal stem cells may have the potential to slow the progression and improve quality of life in people with ALS.
WHAT IS ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is one of the more difficult diseases to understand and treat. It is a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and impacts physical function. The exact cause of this disease is unknown. In ALS nerve cells break down, which reduces functionality in the muscles they supply. Although the most common age for someone to develop ALS is around 50-60 it can affect people of any age.
WHAT'S THE CURE FOR ALS?
Unfortunately, as of early 2022, there is no known cure for ALS. The current prognosis is two to four years from onset. Research suggests that stem cell therapy may be a new possible treatment option for patients with ALS as it may be able to delay the progression of the disease state.
STEM CELL THERAPY FOR ALS
Mesenchymal stem cell therapy has demonstrated impressive therapeutic potential in different ALS clinical trials. Stem cells can seek out damage in the body and replace cells of any type. Stem cell therapy for ALS is currently being used to both protect a patient's healthy neurons, as well as potentially grow new cells to replace those that have died. The results obtained from clinical studies have encouraged and suggested the use of stem cells in ALS patients as transplantation may delay the disease onset and progression and therefore increase lifespan.
Fortunately, a type of stem cell called an Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (IPSC) can closely mimic the neurons affected by ALS. What's more, researchers only need small skin samples from ALS patients to create an indefinite amount of IPSCs in the lab which allows for continuous testing on genetically identical cells to the patients.
STEM CELLS WHEN USED FOR ALS
Mesenchymal stem cells, when used in this capacity secrete neurotrophic factors, differentiate into non-diseased, non-neuronal cells, like astrocytes and microglia, or into modulatory neurons that couple with diseased motor neurons. This is not yet a cure for ALS, however, it may extend survival by addressing the complex disease development through multiple mechanisms.
SYMPTOMS OF ALS
ALS occurs when the body begins to experience the death of neurons that control voluntary muscles. It can affect both the upper and lower neurons. Symptoms of ALS can include but are not limited to:
CAN DRUGS HELP ALS?
There are available drugs on the market that may help ALS patients. There is no accepted cure, however, of the disease today. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge most commonly seen in 2014, was an attempt to increase awareness of the disease.
STEM CELL TRIALS FOR ALS
A well conducted 2016 study, found mesenchymal stem cell therapy to be both safe and well-tolerated by the 26 ALS patients involved in trial. In fact, the study reported that 87% of participants experienced at least a 25% improvement at 6 months after treatment.
Recent research shows that stem cell therapy may have the ability to slow the progression of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a nervous system disease that affects roughly 2 per 100,000 individuals in the United States each year.
Stem cell therapy may have the ability to slow the progression of ALS. This is conducted through stem cells ability to differentiate into unique types of supportive cells such as astrocytes and microglia (cells within the central nervous system). These supportive cells may have the ability to slow the degeneration of motor neurons within the CNS.