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Friday, August 12, 2016

Stem cell therapy trial for ALS and MS patients at Jerusalem hospital shows stunning results


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Professor Dimitrios Karussis
Professor Dimitrios Karussis. (photo credit:Courtesy)
Written by: Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. 
Tucked-away in the pine-tree clad Jerusalem hills at Israel’s renowned Hadassah University Medical Center at Ein Kerem, a groundbreaking clinical trial is taking place that could have a truly profound affect on the lives of millions of people around the world.

This is no copywriter’s sales pitch; this is the story of a mission to find a successful treatment for ALS and multiple sclerosis, a treatment that also may have the potential to positively impact other neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and for those who have suffered the debilitating effects of a stroke.

I first became aware of the work of internationally acclaimed neuroimmunologist Professor Dimitrios Karussis and his colleagues some years ago, when discussing research into possible treatments for multiple sclerosis with a friend who had been diagnosed with the disease. More recent reports of astonishing results of a clinical trial using stem cells in patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Motor Neuron disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease) and multiple sclerosis (MS), prompted me to seek out the Greek-born scientist. I wanted to find out just how close he really is to proving a revolutionary treatment that not only may stop the progression of these until-now incurable neurological diseases, but even reverse some of the damage and debilitation already caused.

From a modest set of offices and laboratories at Hadassah, Karussis and his small team – which includes fellow Greek-born neurologist Dr. Panayiota Petrou, and Dr. Ibrahim Kassis, an expert in tissue regeneration and mesenchymal stem cells – working in collaboration with the Israeli biotechnology company BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, are causing many in the medical world to take notice.

A clinical trial in which the patient’s stem cells are removed from their own bone marrow, cultivated under laboratory conditions, then returned to the patient by intrathecal injection, has shown significant indications with a number of patients, including some whose previously disabled limbs have recovered to a point that was scientifically unimaginable even a couple of years ago.

One of the subjects of this latest clinical trial, who suffers from primary progressive multiple sclerosis and in recent years had become increasingly challenged by his growing disability, spoke exclusively to The Jerusalem Report on condition of anonymity, citing medical privacy.

Now in his late 40s, the dual Israeli-British passport holder and a former marathon runner had sought help from many sources to fight MS, but had been told in Britain that “they had nothing at all to offer” other than a little help from speech and physical therapists or cholesterol tablets. There was nothing that could be done to help stem the progression of the disease that made walking increasingly challenging, and caused the once capable athlete, who despite his deterioration continued to push himself to run, (albeit much slower and with obvious disability), to fall on a regular basis. He can be referred to as “D.”

D was accepted for Karussis’s current clinical trial, and within 24 hours of having the first set of his own adult stem cells injected back into his body experienced something extraordinary.

“The day after [the treatment], a junior doctor asked me to lift my leg up in the air. Normally, she would put her little finger on my leg and it would fall back onto the couch, but I could actually keep the leg up on my own. I remember her leaving my room and I just cried. I never cry, but it was the realization that this treatment appeared to be working. I was able to achieve resistance because my muscles were working again. Seventy-two hours after receiving the treatment, I went for a run.

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