- Human Biospecimens
- Biospecimen Contributors
July 20, 2016
It’s hard to believe that it has been two years since Chris Kennedy, a golfer in Sarasota, Florida, poured the first bucket of ice water over his head in what would spark the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Since that day in July 2014, more than 17 million people have drenched themselves to raise money for ALS, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no cure, posting their videos on social media and creating arguably the largest viral giving event the internet has driven to date. Last year, we were able to share how the $115 million in raised funds were allocated, and this year we are thrilled to share that a major breakthrough in ALS research has just occurred as a direct result of the challenge and subsequent funding.
Millions of dollars were allocated to an academic-industry partnership known as ALS Accelerated Therapeutics (ALS ACT), created to accelerate research into treatments for ALS. One of the research efforts associated with ALS ACT has been the study of a personalized stem cell treatment called NurOwn, developed by Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics. Yesterday they announced that Phase II clinical trial results have deemed the treatment safe for patient use, paving the way for Phase III, the farthest a personalized treatment for ALS has ever progressed and which could ultimately result in a long-sought ALS cure. Phase II efficacy results were mixed, showing NurOwn drove patient improvement but then relapse, so more investigation is necessary to see if the treatment can be adjusted for consistent results.
NurOwn works by harvesting each patient’s own stem cells, and then growing and re-engineering them to secrete nerve growth factors. These modified cells are then injected back into the patient’s arms and spine, where they attack the disease at its source. Simply put by The Street, “By bathing damaged neurons with stem cells secreting nerve growth factors, Brainstorm hopes to show that NurOwn can slow or halt the progression of ALS.”
Thanks to the efforts of many, including giving individuals, researchers, and public and private organizations, there may now be hope for a cure for patients worldwide suffering from this disease. Though rare, ALS is crippling and often fatal, wreaking havoc on the lives of those it affects, including patients and their loved ones. It is inspiring to see tangible evidence of how far viral efforts can go to create widespread activism and real medical results.