Neuralstem, the 11-year-old company, is finally readying for trials of its patented nerve stem cell products on the first three of its possible targets:
- traumatic spinal cord injury,
- another type of paralysis often associated with stroke, and,
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
There are no cures for the conditions. In a study at Johns Hopkins, Neuralstem stem cells extended the life of rats with a form of ALS.
‘‘These stem cells not only survived in an extremely adverse environment, but may have actually produced and delivered motor neuron growth factors, which promote growth and function, to the sick motor neurons,” said Vassillis E. Koliatsos, whose lab conducted the study.
While other studies have reported only limited success with spinal cord-injured rats, ‘‘we made them walk again,” said Neuralstem’s scientific founder and chairman, Karl Johe. ‘‘We do expect the same thing in humans but it is more complicated.”
Such injuries in humans are more variable, but he would have expected the treatment to have worked for paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve.
Grafts of Neuralstem’s stem cells into 16 rats 3 weeks after they were paralyzed showed a ‘‘progressive recovery of ambulatory function” in studies at the University of California, San Diego. (See video: University of California, San Diego.)
The company’s first human trials on a neurological disease will be to treat ALS which weakens muscles from the loss of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually leading to death.
But first, Neuralstem expects to file a new investigative drug application next month with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for human trials of its spinal cord stem cell treatment for ischemic spastic paraplegia. This paralysis results from blood shortage from the kind of stroke that can follow surgery or an injury such as a gunshot wound. Neurostem anticipates filing a second application with the FDA next year for traumatic spinal cord injury.
Ilustration: Microsoft Clipart.
ALS Therapy Development Institute (11/30/07)
The Spinal Cord Injury Zone (11/30/07)