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Posts Tagged ‘Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis’

STEPHEN HAWKING VISITS STEM CELL LAB

In ALL ARTICLES, STEM CELLS IN THE NEWS on April 10, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Stephen Hawking Visits LA Stem Cell Lab

Stephen Hawking toured a stem cell laboratory Tuesday where scientists are studying ways to slow the progression of Lou Gehrig’s disease, a neurological disorder that has left the British cosmologist almost completely paralyzed.

After the visit, the 71-year-old Hawking urged doctors, nurses and staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to support the research.

Hawking recalled how he became depressed when he was diagnosed with the disease 50 years ago and initially didn’t see a point in finishing his doctorate. But his attitude changed when his condition didn’t progress quickly and he was able to concentrate on his studies.

“Every new day became a bonus,” he told a packed room.

Cedars-Sinai received nearly $18 million last year from California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell institute to study the debilitating disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control the muscles. People gradually have more and more trouble breathing and moving as muscles weaken and waste away.

There’s no cure and no way to reverse the disease’s progression. Few people with ALS live longer than a decade.

Diagnosed at age 21 while a student at Cambridge University, Hawking has survived longer than most. He receives around-the-clock care, can only communicate by twitching his cheek, and relies on a computer mounted to his wheelchair to convey his thoughts in a distinctive robotic monotone.

A Cedars-Sinai patient who was Hawking’s former student spurred doctors to invite the physicist to glimpse their stem cell work.

“We decided it was a great opportunity for him to see the labs and for us to speak to one of the preeminent scientists in the world,” said Dr. Robert Baloh, who heads the hospital’s ALS program.

During the tour, Hawking viewed microscopic stem cells through a projector screen and asked questions about the research, Baloh said.

Cedar-Sinai scientists have focused on engineering stem cells to make a protein in hopes of preventing nerve cells from dying. The experiment so far has been done in rats. Baloh said he hopes to get governmental approval to test it in humans, which would be needed before any therapy can be approved.

Renowned for his work on black holes and the origins of the universe, Hawking is famous for bringing esoteric physics concepts to the masses through his best-selling books including “A Brief History of Time,” which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. Hawking titled his speech to Cedars-Sinai employees “A Brief History of Mine.”

Despite his diagnosis, Hawking has remained active. In 2007, he floated like an astronaut on an aircraft that creates weightlessness by making parabolic dives.

Space exploration is important “for the future of humanity,” he told the audience.

Hawking said he did not think Earthlings would survive “without escaping beyond your fragile planet.”

And he gave some advice: Look up at the stars. Stay curious.

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at,” he said.

Doctors don’t know why some people with Lou Gehrig’s disease fare better than others. Baloh said he has treated patients who lived for 10 years or more.

“But 50 years is unusual, to say the least,” he said.

 

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ALS TREATMENT THROUGH STEM CELLS

In ALL ARTICLES, SCIENCE & STEM CELLS, STEM CELLS - 101, STEM CELLS IN THE NEWS on January 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

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Stem Cells Treat Lou Gehrig’s Disease, In Mice

“… just to see what stem cells would do in the nervous system of a mouse who had a model of this disease, in other words, was very rapidly and very progressively losing all muscular activity, including respiration. What we found – and this was a surprise at the time – in the early days, we thought, well, stem cells should simply replace these dying motor neurons. What, in fact, we found is – and this reflected a growing sophistication of our knowledge about stem cells as well as a growing sophistication about our knowledge about ALS – that the stem cells did make a difference in these animals. It slowed the onset of the disease, its progression and prolonged survival fairly significantly. But it did it by protecting the neurons of this animal and also kind of counteracting many of the other disease processes that we started learning were going on in this disease.”

http://www.npr.org/2012/12/21/167798232/stem-cells-treat-lou-gehrigs-disease-in-mice

“Injecting stem cells into the brains of mice that recently suffered a stroke can reduce nerve cell (neuron) damage by up to 60 percent, according to new research.  But the stem cells do not simply replace damaged tissue as previously believed. Instead, the immature cells trigger adult brain cells to switch gears and block a stroke-induced immune response that causes nerve damage.”

– Taken from 2008 article:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=can-stem-cells-block-stroke-damage

 

For all related  articles on (ALS) and the history of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease). Click HERE.

A TREATMENT FOR ALS? Neural stem cell transplants slow progression of disease

In SCIENCE & STEM CELLS, VICTORIES & SUCCESS STORIES on January 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm
A treatment for ALS?
Neural stem cell transplants slow progression of disease

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“The transplanted neural stem cells help by producing factors that preserve the health and function of the host’s remaining nerve cells. They also reduce inflammation and suppress the number of disease-causing cells in the host’s spinal cord. The neural stem cells did not replace deteriorating nerve cells in the mice with ALS.  Researchers observed improved motor performance and respiratory function in the treated mice. The neural stem cell transplant also slowed the disease’s progression.

Twenty-five percent of the treated ALS mice in the study survived for one year or more — roughly three to four times longer than the untreated mice.”

Results from a meta-analysis of 11 independent amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research studies are giving hope to the ALS community by showing, for the first time, that the fatal disease may be treatable.

Researchers say progress in treating ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, may be made by targeting new mechanisms revealed by neural stem cell-based studies.

“This significant research will help us better understand the mechanisms underlying motor neuron diseases,” said Yang (Ted) Teng, Harvard Medical School associate professor of surgery at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and one of the study’s co-lead authors. Teng is also director of the Spinal Cord Injury and Stem Cell Biology Research Laboratory in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s.

The research studies were conducted at Brigham and Women’s; the Harvard affiliates Children’s Hospital Boston and Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System; Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; University of Massachusetts Medical School; Johns Hopkins University; State University of New York Upstate Medical University; and Columbia University.

“This is not a cure for ALS. But it shows the potential that mechanisms used by neural stem cells in our study have for improving an ALS patient’s quality of life and length of life,” said Yang (Ted) Teng, one of the principal investigators of Project ALS’ consortium project. File photo by Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer

ALS causes nerve cells in the spinal cord to die, eventually taking away a person’s ability to move or even breathe. A decade of research conducted at multiple institutions showed, however, that when neural stem cells were transplanted into multilevels of the spinal cord of a mouse model with familial ALS, disease onset and progression slowed, motor and breathing function improved, and treated mice survived three to four times longer than untreated mice.

A summary of the findings from all 11 studies was published online in December in Science Translational Medicine.

“This work sheds new light on detrimental roles played by non-neuronal cells in triggering motor neuron death, and these events should be targeted for developing more effective therapeutics to treat ALS,” Teng said.

The transplanted neural stem cells help by producing factors that preserve the health and function of the host’s remaining nerve cells. They also reduce inflammation and suppress the number of disease-causing cells in the host’s spinal cord. The neural stem cells did not replace deteriorating nerve cells in the mice with ALS.

Researchers observed improved motor performance and respiratory function in the treated mice. The neural stem cell transplant also slowed the disease’s progression. Twenty-five percent of the treated ALS mice in the study survived for one year or more — roughly three to four times longer than the untreated mice.

“This is not a cure for ALS,” said Teng, who is one of the principal investigators of Project ALS’ consortium project. “But it shows the potential that mechanisms used by neural stem cells in our study have for improving an ALS patient’s quality of life and length of life.”

To read the full story, visit the Harvard Medical School website.

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