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Exp Neurol. 2014 Dec;262 Pt B:127-37. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2014.02.021. Epub 2014 Mar 6.

The past, present and future of stem cell clinical trials for ALS.

Author information

  • 1Regenerative Medicine Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8700 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA.
  • 2Regenerative Medicine Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8700 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA; Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8700 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA. Electronic address: Clive.Svendsen@cshs.org.

Abstract

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by progressive degeneration of motor neurons in the cortex, brainstem and spinal cord. This leads to paralysis, respiratory insufficiency and death within an average of 3 to 5 years from disease onset. While the genetics of ALS are becoming more understood in familial cases, the mechanisms underlying disease pathology remain unclear and there are no effective treatment options. Without understanding what causes ALS it is difficult to design treatments. However, in recent years stem cell transplantation has emerged as a potential new therapy for ALS patients. While motor neuron replacement remains a focus of some studies trying to treat ALS with stem cells, there is more rationale for using stem cells as support cells for dying motor neurons as they are already connected to the muscle. This could be through reducing inflammation, releasing growth factors, and other potential less understood mechanisms. Prior to moving into patients, stringent pre-clinical studies are required that have at least some rationale and efficacy in animal models and good safety profiles. However, given our poor understanding of what causes ALS and whether stem cells may ameliorate symptoms, there should be a push to determine cell safety in pre-clinical models and then a quick translation to the clinic where patient trials will show if there is any efficacy. Here, we provide a critical review of current clinical trials using either mesenchymal or neural stem cells to treat ALS patients. Pre-clinical data leading to these trials, as well as those in development are also evaluated in terms of mechanisms of action, validity of conclusions and rationale for advancing stem cell treatment strategies for this devastating disorder.

KEYWORDS:

ALS; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Clinical trials; Motor neuron disease; Neurodegenerative disorder; Stem cell therapy; Stem cells; Transplantation

PMID:
24613827
DOI:
10.1016/j.expneurol.2014.02.021
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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