May is ALS Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the role of regenerative medicine research in advancing understanding and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This neurodegenerative disorder causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to die, blocking signals to the muscles. That results in paralysis that robs a person of the ability to walk, talk and breathe. Because there is no cure, ALS eventually leads to respiratory weakness and death.
“There’s a huge urgency to find new therapies that help patients with ALS because currently what we have is not sufficient. Patients are eagerly awaiting answers that address their unmet needs. We need to quickly and safely deliver new, validated treatments to those who are afflicted. That motivates our team to get out of bed every morning and work on it as hard as we can,” says Nathan Staff, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist, regenerative medicine expert and principal investigator on ALS stem cell research at Mayo Clinic.
New options are needed, because the drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ALS are not effective enough at slowing the course of the disease.
Seeking regenerative medicine solutions
A transformation is underway in health care that is shifting the focus of medicine from fighting disease to rebuilding health. At the forefront is Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, which supports ALS research as part of its mission to develop and deliver innovative, curative therapies for patients.
ALS affects about 15,000 people in the U.S. Approximately 5,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, according to the The ALS Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 1 in 10 cases of ALS are the inherited type that are linked to genetic mutations. However, 90% are a sporadic type that are without an obvious cause and presumed to be due to interactions between a person’s genetics and environmental exposures. People over 40, smokers and men appear to be at a higher risk for the disease.
Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.
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