Penguinshit writes: "Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal, progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by rapid loss of muscle control and eventual paralysis due to the death of large motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Growth factors such as glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) are known to protect motor neurons from damage in a range of models. Human cortical neural progenitor cells derived from fetal tissue (ie. stem cells) can be expanded in culture for long periods and survive transplantation into the central nervous system, in some cases making large numbers of GFAP positive astrocytes. They can also be genetically modified to release GDNF and thus act as long-term 'mini pumps' in specific regions of the brain. In this study a team at UW-Madison's Waisman Center genetically modified human neural stem cells to release GDNF and transplanted them into the spinal cord of rats with mutant SOD1. Following unilateral transplantation into the spinal cord of the rats there was robust cellular migration into degenerating areas, efficient delivery of GDNF and remarkable preservation of motor neurons at early and end stages of the disease within chimeric regions.
This work is especially important to me, as I have been living with ALS for almost three years."