Lou Gehrig’s Disease Progress?
A press release from Johns Hopkins reports that rats bred to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, had delayed onset and prolonged life when human stem cells were transplanted into their spinal cords. Onset was delayed by an average of 7 days and lifespan extended by 9 days. One of the things the research demonstrates is that the new cells were not themselves subject to the degeneration the surrounding cells suffered. Many of the cells developed into nerve cells and grew nerve endings to connect with other cells.
The next step in the research is to try grafting the cells along the length of the spinal cord; in this first study, the grafts only affected muscles and nerves below the waist and not those responsible for breathing. If the transplanted cells can be shown to have a significant effect in maintaining normal breathing, that would be a very important step forward. The study is also useful as a model of how stem cells change when transplanted. Human clinical studies are still far away.
There are more detailed articles on the study on Reuters, the Independent, and the BBC, among others.