ALS, often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and further made famous after Stephen Hawking’s diagnosis, is a progressive disease without a cure. There are about 15 new cases diagnosed every day, and most patients will die within 3 to 5 years. Understanding, and therefore treatment options for the condition have been limited, but now stem cell therapy is becoming a promising way to fight disease progression.
David Neufeglise, 41, was one the patients that underwent a stem cell therapy clinical trial for ALS. David, a mechanical engineer, was completely healthy when he started to notice a constant twitch in his arm. After testing for months, he finally received the diagnosis result as ALS.
David quickly joined in a clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and began receiving stem cell therapies every 8 weeks. The stem cells come from the patients themselves, and they are then multiplied and grown until they mature and behave more like brain cells. Then, they are placed back into the patient to help regrow the lost cells and hopefully undo some of the damage done to the brain and spinal cord.
ALS specialist Dr. Merit Cudkowicz explains that the “stem cells from people’s own bodies can act like an anti-inflammatory drug”. Researchers hope that the treatment will result decreased brain inflammation, which can worsen ALS.
David is encouraged by his treatment and what it could do for him and other sufferers of the disease. “My hope for this trial is that finally ALS patients will have a powerful weapon they can fight the disease with,” he says. About 200 ALS patients are being recruited to take part in the clinical trial.