ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes the degeneration and death of motor neurons required to initiate voluntary muscle activity. With no known cure, ALS patients gradually become totally paralyzed, while most retain complete cognitive function, with an average life expectancy of two to five years after diagnosis.
Only recently has a pharmacological therapy been shown to slow the progression of ALS, with modest effects. None have demonstrated improvement in either ALS progression or symptom management.
Researchers from the University of Milan found that bone marrow stem cells from healthy mice, transplanted into mice genetically altered with an animal version of ALS, contribute to the regeneration of nervous and muscle tissue affected by ALS. Within four months of stem cell transplantation, the bone marrow, brain, spinal cord, heart, and skeletal muscles of the ALS mice were analyzed. "The central nervous system of ALS mice showed a five-fold increase of newly generated neuronal cells with respect to the healthy mice used as controls. A high level of regeneration in heart and skeletal muscle was also found," according to study author Stefania Corti, MD. "Eventually, we hope these study methods may be transferable to studies of ALS pathology in humans, though much more research with animal subjects will be required," concluded Corti.
Jasper Daube, MD, chair of the AAN Task Force on Animals in Research and a neurologist who sees many patients with ALS, was encouraged by the study's findings. According to Daube, this research is a significant illustration of the importance of animal research to finding answers for neurological diseases.
The study was supported by R.F. Stem 2001, a public grant from the Italian Ministry of Health.
ALS was brought to national attention in 1939 when Lou Gehrig retired from baseball after his diagnosis.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its online press room at http://www.
Dr. Corti will present her research during the AAN's 55th Annual Meeting in Honolulu during a scientific presentation at 2 p.m. on Tues., April 1, in Room 316A of the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC). She will be available for media questions during a briefing at 8 a.m. on Mon., March 31 in the AAN's press room, Room 327 of the HCC. All listed times are for Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time (HT).