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!
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences