Lou Gehrig’s disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no known cure, named for the famed New York Yankees first baseman who died from the illness.
Emory University researchers are working with a Maryland biotech firm, Neuralstem, to use neural stem cells to treat patients with the disease, formally known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
The researchers recently won approval from the Food and Drug Administration to continue their study, which is in the initial safety phase.
Drs. Jonathan Glass and Nicholas Boulis have implanted 12 ALS patients with neural stem cell transplants in the lower back. Now they’re moving ahead with six more patients, who will get the transplants in the upper region of the spinal cord.
With ALS, nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control movement stop functioning. The condition leads to paralysis, and patients eventually cannot breathe or swallow on their own, a WebMD article notes.
Delivering the stem cells safely to the upper spinal cord ”is particularly important because therapy in this region may help patients better maintain their ability to breathe,” Glass says.
(Separately, another stem cell study has been halted at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, after a California company announced Tuesday that it was discontinuing this kind of spinal cord research because of high costs. Here’s an AJC article on that study.)
Glass and Boulis discuss their research in the above GHN video interview, courtesy of Emory.