Scientists, health advocates and leaders from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) gathered in San Diego on June 23 for a special public meeting to spotlight a new grant to pursue novel, fast-tracked stem cell-based therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The meeting was a part of a long-term effort to inform and educate the public about research and projects funded by California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
That statewide ballot measure provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions.
The meeting featured presentations by the grant project’s principal investigators and scientists.
It was reported the ALS Association was funding several stem cell studies, including the development of the surgical techniques utilized in the phase 1 Neuralstem study. All the investigations were excited because of the potential of stem cells in ALS. More multiple rigorous studies in the area are needed to be done.
It was planed that $11.5 million CIRM “disease team” grant would fund stem cell research for ALS. A special type of cell called an astrocyte progenitor are to be exploited. Astrocytes are glial cells, a family of cells that support the proper functioning and insulation of neurons. The particular job of astrocytes is to help with neurotransmissions and neuronal metabolism.
It is known that in ALS, the decay of astrocytes and other cells eventually causes neurons to malfunction and die, leading to a host of debilitating and ultimately fatal consequences.
Previous research indicated that transplanting healthy glial cells into patients could be a possible treatment for ALS, and animal studies have shown that astrocytes possess particular promise.
In the nearest future researchers hope to develop an ALS therapy that uses human embryonic stem cells to create astrocyte precursors that would be transplanted into patients. The cells expected to mature into new and healthy astrocytes that could halt the progressive ravages of ALS.
The researchers will study two methods of administering progenitors in animal models and test the safety and efficacy of these approaches, with the goal of providing proof-of-principle and laying the groundwork for clinical trials within five years.