October 11, 2010 / 3:42 PM / 9 years ago

BrainStorm to begin ALS drug trials in Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics will begin clinical trials of its stem cell treatment for the neurological disease ALS after receiving clearance from Israel’s Ministry of Health.

The company said on Monday its treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, uses stem cells taken from the bone marrow of adults, rather than more controversial embryonic stem cells. The use of embryonic stem cells has raised a storm of controversy due to religious, ethical and political issues involved in harvesting cells from embryos.

“We believe that our specific differentiated stem cells derived from a patient’s own bone marrow could represent a new treatment paradigm for patients with ALS and other neurological disorders,” said BrainStorm President Chaim Lebovits.

The trials, to be conducted at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, will begin after the validation of sterility tests and the screening of patients, the company said.

BrainStorm has said it is focusing its research on Parkinson’s Disease, which affects 4 million people in the West, but that it can move faster with ALS, which afflicts an average of two out of 100,000 people a year, because it is terminal and considered an “orphan” or rare disease.

Robert Brown Jr., professor and chair of neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said in a statement BrainStorm’s stem cell treatment was a new approach that could help in several neurological diseases, including ALS and Parkinson’s.

“If safe and effective, this new therapy could become a treatment option for thousands of patients,” he said.

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