Scientific Breakthroughs

Scientists Curb Neurodegenerative Disease ALS In Its Tracks Using Stem Cells

neurodegenrative disease ALS
Photo shows motor neurons induced by direct programming of mouse embryonic stem cells.

Stem cells research has grown by leaps and bounds across the years. It has been found to stimulate hair growth, restore low testosterone, and repair certain body parts. A study that allows direct reprogramming of stem cells into motor neurons has sparked hope for thousands of individuals in the U.S. afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The study, published in the Cell Stem Cell journal, uncovered that the progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord can be curbed.

Though treatment of ALS has mainly been palliative, and proposed interventions hindered by regulatory steps,  the study findings of reprogramming stem cells signals a medical breakthrough.

How the Mechanism Works

Cell fate can be controlled through direct cell programming. Two initially independent transcriptional modules converge.

The new pathway for cell reprogramming is done by analyzing the gene transcription in mice. The body’s own stem cells are grown into healthy cells.

Motor cells of individuals with ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by mutations that tend to lead to varying levels of paralysis as well as pain. What the team of scientists from the U.S. and Germany did was develop a mechanism whereby they can directly reprogram stem cells into the motor neurons.

The stem cells are extracted from the patient’s bone marrow. They are then cultured so as to secrete the growth factor NeuroTrophic Factor.

In so doing, the cells in the spinal cord and brain are preserved or kept alive. Transplantation of the stem cells back into the patient’s body follows.

Worldwide Health Concern

Across the world, healthcare institutions like California’s Stem Cell Agency have been actively disseminating updates and news on Stem Cell Clinical Trials Stories that offer hope for individuals battling the illness. Medical experts have stated in the past that there is no cure for ALS.

Stem cell research findings point out, though, that the progression of the disease can be slowed down. Hence, clinicians and patients have been receptive to the cell programming.

Photo Shows: Flickr

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