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May 10, 2010 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2010-05-10

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Monday, May 10, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Stem cells like these are injected into the spinal cord ofean ALS patient in a new procedure developed from University prof. Eva Feldman.
Clinical trial first to apply
stem cells to combat AL

The trial has been ongoing at
Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia
since January. So far, three patients
have received the injections of stem
cells, but up to 12 patients may be
enrolled in the study.
Neuralstem, Inc. - a publicly trad-
ed biotherapeutics company based
in Maryland, which specializes in
the use of neural stem cells as a form
of biotechnology - is supplying the
stem cells for the study. The company
is funding the entire clinical trial at
Emory University.
Richard Garr, president and CEO
of Neuralstem, said the use of neural
stem cells isolated from humans in
the fetal stage of development is bet-
ter suited to the study as opposed to
embryonic stem cells.
Unlike the already differentiated
neural stem cells, embryonic stem
cells have the potential to develop into
any type of cell found in the body with
the proper stimulation.
Garr said the neural stem cells pro-
vided by Neuralstem do not require
the additional manipulation neces-
sary to coax embryonic stem cells to
develop into neural tissue.
"Think about the incredible com-
plexity of development and all of the
information that is exchanged between
the cells during the developmental
process," he said. "We think that that
is kind of hard to replicate in a couple
days in a (petri) dish. So we would say
that these (neural stem cells) are more
physiologically relevant. We don't have

to worry about what information these
cells do or do not have."
Garr added that, since ALS affects
nerve cells, theuse of neural stem cells
in the study is warranted.
ALS is characterized by death of
motor neurons in the spinal cord,
which control muscle movement. Pro-
gression of the disease to the muscles
of the diaphragm, which assist in
breathing, often causes the death of
ALS patients.
Feldman, who oversaw the surgical
implantation, said ALS leaves neurons
in a damaged state that can be sup-
ported by injected stem cells, accord-
ing to a May 4 interview with CNN.
"When we inject stem cells in the
spinal cord the stem cells surround
those large nerve cells and allow those
nerve cells to actually become less
diseased and, in fact, those nerve cells
begin to look healthy," Feldman said
in the interview.
The phase one trial will determine
if injecting fetal stem cells into the
spinal cords of adults is a safe proce-
dure and will show whether it is an
effective treatment for ALS, Feldman
According to Garr, it could take
about six years to complete the first
phase of the trial.
"I recently told a new patient that
the situation is hopeful now. The
future is very bright. Not just for ALS,
but for patients with other neurologi-
cal diseases, including Alzheimer's,
Parkinson's and Huntington's," Feld-
man wrote.

Patients receive neural
stem cell injections in
new type of surgery
For the Daily
S John Cornick, a resident of North
Carolina, is not the first person to
be diagnosed with amyotrophic lat-
eral sclerosis - a neurodegenerative

disease that robs its sufferers of vol-
untary muscle movement. But he is
among the first to receive direct stem
cell injections to experimentally treat
the disease.
Leading a team in the first ever
FDA-approved stem cell procedure,
Prof. of Neurology Eva Feldman said
she hopes the landmark study will
bring aid to those suffering from the
effects of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
After years of work, Feldman, direc-
tor of the A. Alfred Taubman Medi-

cal Research Institute, and her team
have been able to apply their stem cell
research to the phase one clinical trial
of the study of ALS. The trial marks
the first FDA-approved procedure in
which fetal stem cells are injected into
the spinal cords of adults.
"For 20 years, I could offer little
hope to my patients with ALS," Feld-
man wrote in an e-mail interview.
"Now, there is truly tangible hope. We
are testing a therapy that may allow us
to halt the progression of this terrible

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