KYOTO – Researchers say they can prolong the lives of mice with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis by about 10 days, a finding that could lead to treating the neurodegenerative disorder in humans.
Ten days of life for mice could be equivalent to up to half a year in human terms, the researchers said, although exact conversion is difficult.
There is currently no effective cure for ALS, which is characterized by a loss of motor neurons in the upper and lower body.
The study transplanted glial-rich neural progenitors derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, into mice.
The findings suggest regenerative medicine using iPS cells could be useful in treating ALS patients, the researchers said Thursday in an online edition of the U.S. journal Stem Cell Reports.
The team was led by Haruhisa Inoue, a professor of stem cell medicine at Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application.
Scientists transplanted iPS-derived glial-rich neutral progenitors into the spinal cords of 24 mice exhibiting symptoms of ALS. Each mouse received about 80,000 such progenitors.
Glial cells provide support and protection for neurons, and their abnormality is believed to be related to the progress of ALS.
Mice given the transplants survived an average of 162 days, versus 150 days for untreated mice in a control sample, the researchers said.
Furthermore, the team reported finding no tumors in the mice, although other studies have suggested iPS cells lead to tumor formation.
Cell transplants are believed to be a promising treatment for ALS, but securing a stable supply of cells for transplants has been difficult. It is hoped that the iPS cells, which can grow into any type of human body tissue, will help address the difficulty.
“I want to also transplant motor nerve cells grown from iPS cells and study what kind of effect there is,” Inoue said.