Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Israeli Company Hopes to Find Real Treatment for ALS

BrainStorm looks beyond the Ice Bucket Challenge to treat Lou Gehrig’s Disease with their NurOwn treatment

By: Maya Yarowsky and Anouk Lorie, NoCamels

Published: September 1st, 2014 in Health » Israel

Israeli Company Hopes to Find Real Treatment for ALS

If you’ve been on the Internet anytime lately, you will have noticed that one disease is dominating the headlines; ALS, also referred to as motor neurone disease. With the Ice Bucket Challenge, which is meant to raise funds for ALS research, people around the world, including Hollywood celebrities, are nominating one another to drop a bucket of ice cold water on their heads. But while the spoof has gone viral, many may have overlooked why the “chilling” challenge began in the first place.

ALS is a severe, rapidly progressing neurodegenerative disease in which patients lose all ability to control their muscles, usually resulting in death from respiratory failure within three to five years of diagnosis. Yet way before Pat Quinn, himself an ALS patient, created the Ice Bucket Challenge a year ago, Israeli medical company BrainStorm was already laying the bricks for the most comprehensive treatment so far of this deadly disease.

Treating patients using their own stem cells

BrainStorm’s NurOwn treatment is about to enter Phase II clinical trials in the United States. Following the successful initial treatment of four advance-stage ALS patients at Hadassah Medical Center in Israel, BrainStorm, which focuses on stem cell treatments for neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS), is hoping for similar successes in the American trial study.

Based on the research of Profs. Eldad Melamed and Daniel Offen of Tel Aviv University, NurOwn works by extracting stem cells from the ALS patient, adding chemicals to the cells until they are able to autonomously grow new neurons, then re-injecting the stem cells into the muscles and spinal region of the same patient. According to Melamed, “These nerve cells secrete a growth hormone that supports existing nerve cells, slowing down, and even halting degeneration.”

Promising results in Israeli trial

For the four patients treated at Hadassah Medical Center, the NurOwn trial was the first glimmer of hope they had been given in a long time. One of them, Rabbi Refael Shmulevitz, was given two to four years to live before receiving the NurOwn injection. Two years later, Rabbi Shmulevitz is alive and well, with a dramatic improvement in his symptoms soon after he underwent the treatment.

This article was first published on NoCamels – Israeli Innovation News and was re-posted with permission. To continue reading this article on the site, click here.

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