Throwing a bucket of ice-cold water on a willing participant, posting it on Facebook for all the world to see, and challenging a friend to do the same, proved to be one of the savviest ways to bring awareness to a chronic disorder such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS. US$15 million in funds raised and countless celebrity challenge-takers later, however, ALS remains a disease with no cure in sight.
Despite the viral challenge’s popularity and the considerable amount of funds raised, ALS, also known as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’, still remains one of the most challenging diseases known to the medical community, affecting anyone regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnic background. With a life expectancy of only 2-5 years, ALS patients have yet to get a long-term treatment – that is, unless you consider Stem Cells.
What does ALS do?
ALS takes away a person’s ability to make voluntary movements such as walking, speaking, eating, and breathing, the very functions that keep a person alive. It does so by damaging motor neurons found in the brain which are responsible for transporting signals from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles in the body. With ALS, a person’s motor neurons wastes away, causing an inability of the brain to send signals throughout the body’s muscles and eventually causing the body’s muscles to waste away.
Riluzole, a drug approved by the US Food & Drug Administration, is one of very few remedies known to soften the debilitating effects of ALS. Although it delays the disease’s progression, it doesn’t cure nor does it reverse nerve damage. Its side effects include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain, among others. Enduring these side effects may prove a minor battle compared to suffering the disease’s full effects, which eventually could lead to death. It is ultimately an imperfect drug and comes with a relatively steep price tag, but for many patients, it is enough.
What else is in store for ALS patients?
Thanks to the viral ice bucket challenge, The ALS Association, a non-profit global research and assistance group, confirmed that there has been a rise in donations, no doubt influenced by the amount of attention via clicks and shares of videos, brought by an army of charitable individuals, celebrities, influential personalities and institutions who participated in the challenge. Because of this, the public came to know of a previously little heard of neurodegenerative disease.
But is there anything else that can be done in the face of ALS?
Based on a clinical trial published in the Stem Cells Translational Medicine, the answer is yes. Conducted by researchers and scientists in a Korea-based biotechnology company and two Korean universities, the study was conducted primarily to confirm that using Stem Cells for the treatment of ALS is safe. It involved the injection of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) in selected ALS patients conducted and with the participants being observed in a span of six months. After the observation period, the treatment was declared ‘safe and feasible’. The trial’s other aim is to determine whether two injections would prove more beneficial for the patient instead of just one.
Stem Cells and the future of ALS cure
One advocate of Stem Cells as treatment for ALS is a man who has been diagnosed with the disease. Ted Harada has received positive results from participating in a clinical trial and has given interviews and talks where he discussed his health improvements after receiving Stem Cell Therapy. He is, however, just one out of many patients awaiting for a viable cure.
The best that ALS sufferers can hope for is an improved quality of life as they continue to battle the disease with Riluzole. A person diagnosed with ALS is given two to five years survival rate, beyond which there is little certainty as to how further along he can survive.
Given the wave of support for beating ALS, a viable cure for the disease is becoming more and more visible and Stem Cells’ encouraging effects is understandably inching its way towards the forefront of finding a cure for this formidable disease.
Global Stem Cells offers access to Stem Cell treatment for neurological conditions such as ALS, Cerebral Palsy, and Muscular Dystrophy, using Mesenchymal Stem Cells.
Treatment for ALS could allow for the brain cells’ regeneration and other neurological function improvements.
For information on ALS and how Stem Cells can help, talk to one of our Stem Cell Specialists.