Poles Find ALS Cure?

Polish Scientific Success

Polish Scientific Success

There is a glimmer of hope for people suffering from the incurable, fatal disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis thanks to the work of Polish scientists, who also plan to use the same method in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The disease, most often referred to by its acronym ALS, manifests itself in motor neuron paralysis. This leads to the gradual impairment of successive muscles. The timespan between diagnosis and the moment when paralysis reaches the respiratory muscles with fatal consequences is five years on average (the physicist Stephen Hawking has been living with the disease much longer much to the amazement of doctors). Up to this point, as many as 150 potentially therapeutic substances have been tested in ALS treatment and only one, Rilutek (riluzole), has proved successful in clinical trials. It increaes the life expectancy of ALS sufferers, but only by three months on average. Doctors are unable to offer anything else to patients, so it not surprising that news of a new therapy, developed in Poland, for ALS has been met with great interest. The preliminary results of the treatment were presented in October at an international conference in Olsztyn. “We are so close to finding a cure that there is no point waiting and doing tests on animals,” believes Professor Wojciech Maksymowicz, a neurosurgeon and dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn. It was he who initiated and supervised research on the new ALS therapy. The treatment which Prof. Maksymowicz decided to develop in his laboratory consists in grafts of mesenchymal cells, that is stem cells from bone marrow. “These are the patient’s own cells which we take from the person being treated and then multiply in the laboratory,” explains prof. Czapliński. “That solves two problems simultaneously. The first is ethical, because the cells are not embryonic or foetal. And the second is the problem of graft acceptance, since the patient’s own cells are not rejected by the body. “I believe this research is vitally important,” said Prof. Alexander Storch, a neurologist and stem cell researcher from Dresden Technical University in Germany, who heard Prof. Czapliński’s lecture. “The data is reliable but at this stage I do not think it could be considered as a final solution for ALS therapy. We need to continue clinical trials”.

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