Stem Cells and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A New Therapeutic Approach

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nerve cells responsible for voluntary muscle control. As the disease progresses, these cells, known as motor neurons, deteriorate and die, resulting in gradual loss of muscle function and movement.

Although a definitive cure for ALS has not yet been found, research in the field of stem cells has generated significant interest due to their potential for treating this devastating disease. Stem cells are unique cells with the ability to transform into different types of body cells, making them a promising tool for tissue regeneration and repair of damaged organs.

Globally, ALS occurs in approximately two out of every 100,000 people, with a slight male predominance (1.5 to 1 and 2 to 1). In Colombia, there are no epidemiological studies on the disease, but according to data from the Roosevelt Institute, which has an interdisciplinary group focused on ALS, around four new cases per month are reported in the country.

Regarding ALS, stem cells could be used in several therapeutic approaches. One approach involves using stem cells to replace lost motor neurons. These stem cells, whether taken from the patient’s own body (autologous stem cells) or from donors (allogeneic stem cells), can be differentiated into motor neurons in the laboratory and then transplanted into the patient’s nervous system. This approach aims to restore neural connections and improve muscle function.

Another promising approach is the use of stem cells to support and protect existing motor neurons, enhancing their function and potentially promoting the reproduction of other cells within the nervous system. Research in this area continues to explore the potential benefits of stem cell-based therapies for ALS patients.