Sept. 30, 2009
In the news recently was the FDA approval of a clinical trial for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Lou Gehrig's disease) by the company NeuralStem. Actually, the recent news was release of the FDA hold on the trial; the FDA hold was placed on the trial back on 20 Feb 2009. NeuralStem uses immature, fetal neural stem cells. The hold was placed soon after news broke about an Israeli boy who developed tumors, four years after receiving fetal stem cells. Fetal stem cell "overgrowth" has been a problem before with other attempts, e.g. experiments at using fetal neural cells in Parkinson patients (published ref from 2001, also see refs from 2003 and 1996.)
All of the recent NeuralStem stories talk about this fetal stem cell experiment being the "first" stem cell trial for ALS. Apparently no one is aware of the adult stem cell literature, only fetal and embryonic.
Italian scientists Mazzini and Fagioli have already done several clinical trials using adult mesenchymal stem cells, with promising results. Their published results include success with adult stem cells in pre-clinical animal studies, and clinical trial results published in 2006, in 2008, and in 2009, as well as a recent review paper on the subject. The real hope for patients comes from adult stem cells.