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Using bone marrow to protect the brain
Date:9/19/2011

The ability to produce neuroprotectors, proteins that protect the human brain against neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and ALS, is the holy grail of brain research. A technology developed at Tel Aviv University does just that, and it's now out of the lab and in hospitals to begin clinical trials with patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Developed by Prof. Daniel Offen and Prof. Eldad Melamed of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Felsenstein Medical Research Center, the technology is now a patent-pending process that takes stem cells from a patient's own bone marrow and causes them to differentiate into astrocyte-like cells, which are responsible for the well-being of the brain's neurons. The cells release neurotrophic factors, or neuroprotectants, which have been shown to play a key role in reducing the progress of ALS, a debilitating disease characterized by the progressive degeneration of motor neurons, resulting in paralysis of a patient's limbs and organ function.

The research has appeared in the Journal of Stem Cells Reviews and Reports and a number of other publications.

Trials in Jerusalem and Boston

This stem cell technology, says Prof. Offen, represents 10 years of development. Inspired by advances in embryonic stem cell research and its huge potential but trying to bypass the ethical and safety issues Prof. Offen and his fellow researchers turned to stem cells derived from a patient's own bone marrow.

After coaxing the cells to differentiate into astrocyte-like cells, whose natural function is to guard the brain's neurons and prevent deterioration, the researchers began testing the concept in animal models. "In the mouse model," Prof. Offen explains, "we were able to show that the bone marrow derived stem cells prevent degeneration in the brain following injection of selective neurotoxins." Researchers also demo
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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