Stem cell breakthrough propels research on ALS

A research team from Columbia and Harvard was able to reprogram stem cells taken from the skin of elderly patients into cells responsible for triggering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. In one case, skin cells taken from an 82-year-old ALS patient were used to create stable stem cell lines that could be used by researchers to test the effectiveness of new drugs. And their work has important implications for a range of diseases that affect the elderly, including Alzheimer's.

Increasingly, researchers have been focusing in on the use of stem cells in researching new drugs. Taking stem cells from sick patients, scientists were able to transform them into motor neurons, which control voluntary muscular activity. The degeneration of motor neurons triggers ALS. Researchers, though, have not been able to take samples of motor neurons from patients to study, until now. And the scientists are creating motor neurons from healthy patients to compare it with motor neurons developed from sick patients. At some point, the scientists say it may be possible to grow a healthy batch of motor neurons to help cure the sick.

- read the report from the Los Angeles Times