Stemming the ALS tide?  Neuralstem aims to stem the loss of motor neurons in people with ALS by boosting levels of neuroprotective substances. The potential therapy requires anti-rejection medicines. Video: Lane Niles PhD, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.

A phase II clinical trial of Neuralstem’s potential stem cell therapy for ALS is “now on” according to Emory University’s Jonathan Glass MD

Sites include Emory University and University of Michigan.  15 people with ALS are expected to participate.

Neural stem cells, derived from a human embryo, will be surgically introduced into the cervical (diaphragm-moving) region of the spinal cord of people with ALS in hopes to protect motor neurons needed for breathing.  At least 200,000 neural stem cells will be injected in 10 places throughout the C3 – C5 region on one or both sides of the spinal cord.

“We think the cells don’t migrate far,” explains Glass.  “We think we can cover the whole pool of motor neurons with 10 injections.”

The study aims to determine the maximum number of stem cells that can be safely administered to potentially treat ALS.

Participants will also be checked on a regular basis to look for signs of reduced decline in functional abilities including breathing.

“We think the stem cells are getting in,” says Glass.  “The question is what they are doing.”

To learn more about stem cell therapies for people with ALS and the challenges toward bringing them into the clinic, check out ISSCR 2013: ALS, Stem to Stern.