Only Way to Cure Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

Date: 06/10/2002

“Well, I would start with ALS, and I think you could bring in any responsible scientist from any respectable institution to say that there is no hope at the present or projected for people with ALS, other than human embryonic stem cells… And I think if you don’t have the combination of therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cells, you’re going to be condemning a lot of people to unnecessary suffering, and to death.”
–Actor and patient advocate Christopher Reeve, Senate Subcommittee on Health, 3/5/02

This assertion by Mr. Reeve might come as a surprise to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA). ALSA’s has provided $1 million to support 11 new research projects, and $5.4 million to support 46 on-going projects. None of these projects uses embryonic stem cells or cloning. Two, in fact, use adult stem cells (http://www.alsa.org).

Also, there are no published reports of using embryonic stem cells to treat ALS.

However, scientists have shown some promising results in treating ALS in animal models using non-embryonic stem cells. Researchers in New Jersey provided large doses of umbilical cord blood stem cells to ALS mice; the mice survived significantly longer and showed delayed onset of symptoms, compared with ALS mice that received no umbilical cord blood stem cells.

(N. Ende et al.; “Human umbilical cord blood effect on sod mice (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)”; Life Sciences 67, 53-59; May 26, 2000; R. Chen and N. Ende “The potential for the use of mononuclear cells from human umbilical cord blood in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in SOD1 mice”; Journal of Medicine 31, 21-30; 2000).