Stem Cell Therapy and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

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Stem Cell Therapy and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

Stem Cell Therapy and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)

Facts and Figures


ALS Facts and Figures

ALS can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe

Symptoms progress at varying speeds, which makes the course of the disease difficult to predict

Between 14,000 - 15,000 Americans have ALS (2016)

ALS affects most people between the ages of 50 and 70

Research into stem cell therapy is at an early stage - however, its use for ALS may eventually be possible.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

ALS is life-shortening and there is no cure. Although the disease will progress, symptoms can be managed to help achieve the best possible quality of life.

Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. The motor nerves that are affected when you have ALS are the motor neurons that provide voluntary movements and muscle control.

There are two different types of ALS, sporadic and familial. Sporadic, which is the most common form of the disease in the U.S., accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases. It may affect anyone, anywhere. Familial ALS (FALS) accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases in the U.S. Familial ALS means the disease is inherited. In those families, there is a 50% chance each offspring will inherit the gene mutation and may develop the disease.

ALS can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. Some people also experience changes to their thinking and behaviour. However, ALS affects everyone differently. Not all symptoms will affect everyone, or in the same order. Symptoms also progress at varying speeds, which makes the course of the disease difficult to predict.

In 2016 the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that between 14,000 – 15,000 Americans have ALS*.  ALS is a common neuromuscular disease worldwide. It affects people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

There are several potential risk factors for ALS including:

  • Age – Although the disease can strike at any age, symptoms most commonly develop between the ages of 55 and 75.
  • Gender – Men are slightly more likely than women to develop ALS. However, as we age the difference between men and women disappears.
  • Race and ethnicity – Most likely to develop the disease are Caucasians and non-Hispanics.

Some studies suggest that military veterans are about 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop ALS. Although the reason for this is unclear, possible risk factors for veterans include exposure to lead, pesticides, and other environmental toxins. ALS is recognized as a service-connected disease by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Research Into Stem Cell Treatment

Research into stem cell therapy is at an extremely early stage. However, its use for ALS may eventually be possible.

It is extremely difficult to obtain human motor neurones for study or to grow motor neurones from animal models of ALS. Scientists are now learning how to encourage stem cells to develop into living motor neurones in the laboratory, providing a unique resource for ALS research.

In support of such work The ALS Association’s issued a statement on Stem Cell Research – Washington, D.C. (August 26, 2014)

“The ALS Association’s vision is to create a world without ALS.  To that end The Association is committed to leaving no stone unturned in the quest to discover effective treatments and a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The Association believes that stem cell research is an evolving field that holds the potential to provide benefit to people with ALS in the future.  The pursuit of stem cell research with appropriate scientific review and ethical guidelines directly furthers the mission of The ALS Association in finding a cure for and improving living with ALS.”

Protect Their Future Health

If you want more information on how you could bank your children’s baby teeth for potential future therapeutic use, have a chat to one of our team or download our guide to stem cell banking.

To keep up to date with the latest developments in stem cell therapy and the treatment of heart disease, make sure to check back regularly to our blog.