For those who are suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease — now commonly referred to as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — finding treatment for the condition can seem like a never-ending quest. Stem cells have been used for several years to treat a wide variety of diseases, and many of these treatments point to the potential for further exploration.
Some of the beneficiaries of this process are ALS sufferers. Although there is no cure for ALS, stem cell therapy offers the chance to slow the progression of the disease while also helping to control its symptoms. While there are currently drug treatments available to address the disease, they all have side effects and may offer only limited means of controlling ALS.
In contrast, regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, offers a new avenue for pursuing ALS treatment, one that shows promising potential for improving patient outcomes over the long term. Regenerative medicine provides patients another path to managing their condition, one that may provide improved symptoms and potential long-term benefits.
What are Stem Cells?
The primary cells used for ALS-related stem cell therapy are called mesenchymal stem cells. These cells are derived from adipose (fat) or umbilical cord (Wharton’s Jelly) cells, and they have a unique ability to differentiate themselves into a wide variety of tissues.
Once inserted into the human body, the goal is to have them protect against cell loss by regrowing nerve cells and pathways in the brain.
Stem cell procedures like the ones used for treating ALS are generally considered to be safe, as patients rarely suffer from complications or side effects. In a study published in Neurology, for example, patients treated with mesenchymal cells did not show a markedly elevated risk for complications.
While stem cells for ALS patients should not be seen as a potential cure, many patients have reported improvement in some areas, including:
- Repairs in nerve damage
- Reduced progression of the disease
- Motor skill improvements
- Higher energy levels
While these results can’t be guaranteed for all patients, they represent major steps forward for those who have not had success with traditional treatments or those who need more help in dealing with progressively worse symptoms of ALS.
Like many treatments for ALS, stem cell therapy is considered to be experimental, which means that it does not have approval from the FDA. However, regenerative medicine may offer a window to an improved patient experience by easing symptoms of the disease that would otherwise be debilitating. If you would like to learn more or schedule a consultation, contact a care coordinator today!