As part of the UC-San Diego- and Salk-led effort -- made possible by $11.5 million in funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) -- investigators aim to conduct novel, cutting-edge stem cell research, based on a special type of cell called an astrocyte progenitor.
Astrocytes are cells that help support the proper functioning and insulation of neurons. In ALS disease, the insulation critical to neuron function decays over time, and it is thought that administration of an astrocyte-based cell therapy might help regenerate neuron insulation and reverse the debilitating effects of the disease or halt its progression. UCSD and Salk scientists will study two methods of administering astrocyte progenitors in animal models including cervical and lumbar spinal cord injections. By carefully and rigorously testing the safety and ability of these cells to prevent or slow down the deterioration of motor neurons, this team of world-class experts is hoping this research provides proof-of-principle, paving the path for bringing this approach to clinical trials within five years.