(JTA) — A new treatment tested at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and developed by an American-Israeli biotech company appears to significantly slow the progression of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
According to the findings of initial clinical trials published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA Neurology, the treatment, which uses a stem cell infusion protocol, is safe and offers “possible clinical benefits, to be confirmed in upcoming trials.”
Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization, which owns Hadassah Medical Center, said in a news release issued the same day that the clinical trials began in 2011 and use an “innovative” treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in which stem cells are harvested from the patient’s bone marrow before being injected into the cerebrospinal fluid. Twenty-six ALS patients participated in the trials of a treatment developed by BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics.
The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Dimitrios Karussis of Hadassah Medical Center, described the results as “very encouraging.”
“Close to 90 percent of patients who were injected intrathecally through the spinal cord fluid were regarded as responders to the treatment either in terms of their respiratory function or their motor disability,” he said in a statement. “Almost all of the patients injected in this way showed less progression and some even improved in their respiratory functions or their motor functions.”
A Phase 2, double blind study is running currently at the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital and University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center using a treatment protocol identical to the Hadassah trial.
“While this is absolutely by no means a cure, it is the first step in a long process in that direction,” Karussis said. “I see this treatment as being potentially one of the major future tools to treat degenerative diseases of the brain and spinal cord, in general.”
Hadassah President Ellen Hershkin said in a statement that the hospital “is eager to continue its groundbreaking work to combat ALS and similar neurodegenerative or neuroinflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and many others.”
According to the ALS Association, the disease affects 30,000 people in the United States and 450,000 worldwide.