The ability to produce neuroprotectors, proteins that protect the human brain against neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and ALS, is the holy grail of brain research.
A technology developed at Tel Aviv University does just that, and it's now out of the lab and in hospitals to begin clinical trials with patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Developed by Prof. Daniel Offen and Prof. Eldad Melamed of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Felsenstein Medical Research Center, the technology is now a patent-pending process that takes stem cells from a patient's own bone marrow and causes them to differentiate into astrocyte-like cells, which are responsible for the well-being of the brain's neurons. The cells release neurotrophic factors, or neuroprotectants, which have been shown to play a key role in reducing the progress of ALS, a debilitating disease characterized by the progressive degeneration of motor neurons, resulting in paralysis of a patient's limbs and organ function.
The research has appeared in the Journal of Stem Cells Reviews and Reports and a number of other publications.
Trials in Jerusalem and Boston
This stem cell technology, says Prof. Offen, represents 10 years of development. Inspired by advances in embryonic stem cell research and its huge potential – but trying to bypass the ethical and safety issues – Prof. Offen and his fellow researchers turned to stem cells derived from a patient's own bone marrow.
After coaxing the cells to differentiate into astrocyte-like cells, whose natural function is to guard the brain's neurons and prevent deterioration, the researchers began testing the concept in animal models. "In the mouse model," Prof. Offen explains, "we were able to show that the bone marrow derived stem cells prevent degeneration in the brain following injection of selective neurotoxins." Researchers also demonstrated that transplantation of these cells increased the survival rate in the mouse model of ALS and significantly delayed the progress of motor dysfunction.
According to Prof. Offen, this is a uniquely successful method for differentiating bone marrow stem cells into astrocyte-like cells without manipulating the genetic material of the cell itself. They are the first team of researchers to demonstrate the efficacy of this technology in vivo in various models of neurodegenerative diseases.
The technology was licensed to BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics that has developed it into a clinical grade product called NurOwn™, which is now being used in a clinical trial at Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center. BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics has recently struck an agreement to expand clinical trials to Massachusetts General Hospital in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Home-grown therapy — and talent
The ongoing clinical studies are aimed at evaluating the safety and the efficacy of this treatment, says Prof. Offen. Because the original cells are drawn from the patients themselves, he adds, the body should have no adverse reactions.
Although the current study targets ALS, these cells have the potential to treat a broad range of neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. For many conditions, explains Prof. Offen, the current available treatments only attempt to alleviate the symptoms of these diseases rather than repair existing damage.
BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, the company that is developing the technology, is a spin-off of TAU, Prof. Offen notes. The university has spearheaded the invention involved, and a number of the researchers working within the company graduated from TAU.
American Friends of TelAvivUniversity (www.aftau.org) supports Israel's leading, most comprehensive and most sought-after center of higher learning. Independently ranked 94th among the world's top universities for the impact of its research, TAU's innovations and discoveries are cited more often by the global scientific community than all but 10 other universities.
Internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research and scholarship, TelAvivUniversity consistently produces work with profound implications for the future.
George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy