Press Release


Stem Cells Contribute to Tissue Regeneration in Mice with ALS

Embargoed for meeting release until 8:00 am HT, Mon., March 31, 2003

Honolulu, Hawaii – Researchers have shown that bone marrow-derived stem cells contribute to the regeneration of central nervous system, cardiac and skeletal muscle in mice with an animal version of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Their findings are being presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Honolulu, March 29-April 5, 2003. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes the degeneration and death of motor neurons required to initiate voluntary muscle activity. With no known cure, ALS patients gradually become totally paralyzed, while most retain complete cognitive function, with an average life expectancy of two to five years after diagnosis. Only recently has a pharmacological therapy been shown to slow the progression of ALS, with modest effects. None have demonstrated improvement in either ALS progression or symptom management. Researchers from the University of Milan found that bone marrow stem cells from healthy mice, transplanted into mice genetically altered with an animal version of ALS, contribute to the regeneration of nervous and muscle tissue affected by ALS. Within four months of stem cell transplantation, the bone marrow, brain, spinal cord, heart, and skeletal muscles of the ALS mice were analyzed. "The central nervous system of ALS mice showed a five-fold increase of newly generated neuronal cells with respect to the healthy mice used as controls. A high level of regeneration in heart and skeletal muscle was also found," according to study author Stefania Corti, MD. "Eventually, we hope these study methods may be transferable to studies of ALS pathology in humans, though much more research with animal subjects will be required," concluded Corti. Jasper Daube, MD, chair of the AAN Task Force on Animals in Research and a neurologist who sees many patients with ALS, was encouraged by the study’s findings. According to Daube, this research is a significant illustration of the importance of animal research to finding answers for neurological diseases. The study was supported by R.F. Stem 2001, a public grant from the Italian Ministry of Health. ALS was brought to national attention in 1939 when Lou Gehrig retired from baseball after his diagnosis.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

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Editor's Notes:Dr. Corti will present her research during the AAN’s 55th Annual Meeting in Honolulu during a scientific presentation at 2:00 p.m. on Tues., April 1, in Room 316A of the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC). She will be available for media questions during a briefing at 8 a.m. on Mon., March 31 in the AAN’s press room, Room 327 of the HCC. All listed times are for Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time (HT).

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