Bogota D.C, June 21, 2023. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. As the disease progresses, these cells, known as motor neurons, deteriorate and die, resulting in the gradual loss of muscle function and the ability to move.
Although a definitive cure for ALS has not yet been found, research in the field of stem cells has generated great interest due to their potential for treating this devastating disease. Stem cells are unique cells with the ability to transform into different types of cells in the body, making them a promising tool for tissue regeneration and repair of damaged organs.
Globally, ALS occurs in two out of every 100,000 people, with a slight predominance in the male population (1.5 to 1 and 2 to 1). In Colombia, there are no epidemiological studies on the disease, but according to figures from the Roosevelt Institute, which has an interdisciplinary group on ALS, approximately 4 new cases are reported each month in the country.
In the case of ALS, stem cells could have several therapeutic approaches. “One approach involves using stem cells to replace the lost motor neurons. These stem cells, whether taken from the patient themselves (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,” explains Dr. Carlos Escobar, Scientific Director of Trustem. This approach aims to restore neural connections and improve muscle function.
“Another promising approach is the use of stem cells to provide support and protection to existing motor neurons, thereby improving their function and even allowing the reproduction of other cells in the nervous tissue, such as glial cells,” comments Dr. Escobar. Stem cells release growth factors and protective molecules that can help maintain the survival and functionality of motor neurons affected by ALS. These factors can help slow the progression of the disease and improve patients’ quality of life.
In addition to these direct approaches, stem cells are also being used in disease modeling research to better understand the underlying mechanisms of ALS and develop new drugs and therapies. These models allow scientists to study the disease in the laboratory and test different therapeutic approaches more efficiently and safely.
“While research on stem cells and their application in the treatment of ALS is still a developing field, the advances achieved so far provide hope for finding new therapeutic options in the near future,” concludes the Scientific Director of Trustem. It is important to note that research is ongoing, and further clinical studies and trials are needed to determine the effectiveness and safety of these approaches in ALS patients.
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