Researchers at Tel Aviv University have announced they are launching clinical trials on a new technology intended to
protect the human brain from neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Developed by Professor Daniel Offen and Professor Eldad Melamed of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Felsenstein Medical Research Center, the technology has been taking to the patent-pending stage.
It works like this: Stem cells are extracted from a patient's own bone marrow and differentiated into astrocyte-like cells. These cells are responsible for the well-being of the brain's neurons.
The cells release neurotrophic factors, or neuroprotectants, which have been shown to play a key role in reducing the progress of ALS, a debilitating disease characterized by the progressive degeneration of motor neurons that results in paralysis of a patient's limbs and organ functions.
Because the original cells are drawn from the patients themselves, said Offen, the body should have no adverse reactions.
The research appeared in the Journal of Stem Cells Reviews and Reports, and a number of other publications.
According to the researchers, it took 10 years to develop the technology, which was then licensed to BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics – a spinoff of TAU -- to develop it into a clinical-grade product. It is now called “NurOwn” and is being used in a clinical trial at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. The product will also be used in clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Although the current study targets ALS, Offen added that the cells have the potential to treat a broad range of neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.