Jerusalem - Potentially Groundbreaking ALS Research Benefits Ailing Rosh Yeshiva
Jerusalem - A clinical trial currently underway in Jerusalem may offer a glimmer of hope to patients suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, an incurable, fatal, neurological ailment whose victims suffer from a progressive inability to control the muscles needed for movement, speech, eating and breathing.
A group of twenty four patients are taking part in the trial, which is taking place at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center. Using an experimental treatment developed by a Petach Tikvah based biotechnology company called BrainStorm, stem cells taken from the patient’s bone marrow are grown and strengthened in a laboratory setting before being reinserted into the patient’s spinal cord. While the clinical trial is in its earliest stages and is only designed to test the safety and tolerability of the treatments, not its effectiveness, the results have been promising, with patients once confined to wheelchairs regaining the ability to walk on their own.
Footage released by Israel’s Channel 2 News shows incredible progress by Rabbi Rafael Shmuelevitz, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir, who suffers from both ALS and Myasthenia Gravis and as a result was both wheelchair bound and unable to speak clearly. Diagnosed just four months ago by doctors at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic and told that his life expectancy was just two to four years, Rabbi Shmuelevitz was deemed by BrainStorm to be a “compassionate case” and began receiving a form of the experimental treatments just one month ago. Video footage shows Rabbi Shmuelevitz walking the halls in Hadassah Hospital and speaking intelligibly with doctors and reporters.
While BrainStorm representatives were quick to point out that Rabbi Shmuelevitz is not a typical ALS patient and no conclusions can be drawn based on his improvements, Professor Dmitrios Karussis, head of both Hadassah’s Multiple Sclerosis Center and the clinical trial, told Channel 2 News that Rabbi Shmuelevitz’s response to the treatment exceeded his expectations and that he believes that they are in the early stages of a potential breakthrough in the treatment of ALS.
As the clinical trials continue in Israel, plans are underway for a similar trial to take place in the United States.
“We are hoping to begin a Phase II clinical trial with ALS patients in the Boston area towards the end of 2012,” Cheryl Singer of BrainStorm told VIN News. “For this trial, it is likely that a larger number of patients will be recruited. We are currently awaiting FDA approval to go ahead with this study.”
Currently, the only known effective treatment for ALS is the drug Riluzole which improves patient survival rates by just a few months and does nothing to reverse the degenerative damage to the motor neurons caused by the disease.
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