The Efficacy of Stem Cell Therapy as a Treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Traditional treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are based on lifestyle changes, education and symptom management. But an increasing number of clinicians are turning to stem cell therapy as a way of alleviating the severity of ALS symptoms.

More and more research studies are looking into the link between stem cell transplantation and the alleviation of symptoms. And although the scale of these studies has been relatively limited, the initial findings show great promise. 

We take a closer look at the use of stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for ALS.

What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cell therapy is a regenerative procedure aimed at helping the body replace dead or dying cells. Stem cell clinicians “inject” these building-block stem cells into specific areas of the body to promote regeneration. 

There is a body of evidence that suggests this type of regenerative medicine can slow the progress of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and lessen some of the symptoms.

Because stem cells are produced naturally by the human body, the patient is often a viable donor for their own treatment. In most cases, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are harvested for stem cell therapies; they’re harvested from:

  • Autologous tissue (found in fat and bone marrow)
  • Allogenic tissue (Wharton’s jelly, found in umbilical cords)

A series of studies in recent years have shown that both these types of stem cells are both safe and effective. Indeed, stem cells have both regenerative and therapeutic qualities.

What Is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

Sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neurone disease, ALS is a neurodegenerative condition that results in the gradual loss of basic motor skills. Over time, sufferers lose control over bodily movements and functions. The speed of deterioration differs, but it is irreversible and inevitable. 

The symptoms of ALS differ from person to person, but the most common include:

  • Unexplained falls and trips
  • Slurred speech
  • Cramps in the muscles
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Unpredictable behavior and mood swings
  • Walking difficulties 
  • Numbness and weakness in the extremities
  • Cognitive changes 

Are Stem Cells Effective at ALS Symptom Management?

There is no definitive answer as to the efficacy of stem cell therapy in the treatment of ALS, but the early trial results have been very promising. 

ALS sufferers who have been unresponsive to traditional therapies have been recommended for stem cell trials. Clinicians believe that the transplantation of stem cells could alleviate symptoms and slow the disease’s progress. In particular, MSCs have the ability to speed up the body’s natural healing processes and regenerate damaged cells.

One recent trial revealed that MSC transplantation might reduce the severity of motor impairments. And crucially, the patients who took part in the trial displayed no side effects or adverse reactions.

Trials have also revealed that repeated courses of stem cell therapy have no adverse effects on patients. This means patients with severe symptoms may be able to undergo regular stem cell transplants over the course of their lifetime. This is the key to slowing the disease’s progression and improving quality of life. 

Comprehensive trials into the efficacy of MSCs for the treatment of ALS are coming, and they’ll be large-scale undertakings that are randomized for improved reliability. Despite the fact that research is still underway, stem cell therapy for ALS sufferers is already available. Need to talk to a stem cell professional about your ALS symptoms? Call Cendant today. 

Trial source: Neurol India 2012;60:465-9 Autologous Bone Marrow-derived Stem Cells in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Pilot Study — Prabhakar S, Marwaha N, Lal V, Sharma RR, Rajan R, Khandelwal N

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