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September 2, 2014 6:37 am

As Ice Bucket Challenge Draws Attention to ALS, Israeli Cure Gathers Pace

avatar by Dave Bender

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An MRI image demonstrating an increased T2 signal within the posterior part of the internal capsule of the brain, consistent with the clinical diagnosis of ALS. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

An MRI image demonstrating an increased T2 signal within the posterior part of the internal capsule of the brain, consistent with the clinical diagnosis of ALS. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

While people across the world – or at least those who post to YouTube – are taking the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” and hopefully actually donating to the cause as well, Israeli research into a cure for “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is actually about to enter Phase II clinical trials in the US, according to Israel 21C.

Following the successful initial treatment of four advance-stage ALS patients at Hadassah Medical Center in Israel, BrainStorm, a company which focuses on stem cell treatments for neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS), is hoping for similar successes in the American trial study.

BrainStorm‘s NurOwn treatment works by extracting stem cells from the ALS patient, adding chemicals to the cells until they are able to autonomously grow new neurons, then re-injecting the stem cells into the muscles and spinal region of the same patient,” according to Profs. Eldad Melamed and Daniel Offen of Tel Aviv University.

Among the four patients who received the treatment was an orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem who was treated in 2012.

Rabbi Refoel Shmulevitz was diagnosed with the disease in 2010 at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, and his disease had progressed to an advanced stage, constraining Shmulevitz to a wheelchair and limiting his ability to speak and breathe. His condition was coupled with another rare disease, Myasthenia Gravis, and the resulting combination barred him from participating in clinical trials of NurOwn at Hadassah Hospital, where he was being treated. Instead, he was approved for so-called “compassionate treatment,” intended for patients with no hope for recovery from the disease.

“Within a few weeks following injection with NurOwn cells, the patient showed dramatic improvement in a variety of functions including breathing, speech, walking, muscular strength, and overall well-being,” said Professor Dimitrios Karussis at the time, a neurologist at Hadassah and the principal investigator of BrainStorm’s clinical trials, adding “While we cannot draw scientific conclusions based on the outcome of an individual patient, these results are extremely encouraging.”

On August 18th this year, BrainStorm said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Mayo Clinic to produce NurOwn.

The firm indicated that they would work with the Mayo clinical team and “…begin enrolling subjects into its ongoing phase 2 study of NurOwn, which is designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the transplantation of NurOwn in patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).”

In July, “BrainStorm submitted to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the results of three pilot manufacturing runs performed at the Mayo Clinic, each of which resulted in the production of NurOwn cells that meet the final product release testing acceptance criteria,” the firm said in a statement.

“Earlier in 2014, both Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Memorial (UMass) Hospital in Worcester, Mass. began enrolling subjects in the study. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Connell O’Reilly Cell Manipulation Core Facility manufactures NurOwn for these two clinical sites.”

Check out the 50 top celebrity ALS Ice Bucket Challenges:

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  • Did all four patients recover? If so, for God’s sake, why have trials,end this suffering!The problem with good ol USA is, the money comes first! How do we most dollars on a cure, before we admit and release the cure! Sad! If they have 100% success, I wish I was on a plane right now, and so does my 3 children and Wife! I will continue to pray for Israel!

  • Hastaroth

    Once again,Israel is pioneer in curing a rare degenerative disease.

    And once again,a Greek (Professor Dimitrios Karussis,a neurologist at Hadassah and the principal investigator of BrainStorm’s clinical trials) is participating.

    Jews and Greeks again lead the way to scientific progress.

  • My husband has had ALS for 16 years, he has to have total care, he is now beginning to have trouble with breathing. I would not be surprised if God’s chosen people have the cure, I would just have to praise God.

  • eliezer ben shloma zalman

    is this not a miraculous cure? 50 years ago one might have valled this Witchcraft!

  • Monty Pogoda

    Please keep me posted.

  • Wm. J. Levy

    Good for Israel.

    The ice bucket challenge is absurd and all those who participate are idiots.

    • What stupid statements!!

    • WM,

      That is such a stupid statement. I live in Ireland with a population of circa 4.5 million people. The Irish ALS charity has raised almost €1.5 million in fund that without all us “stupid” fools participating the charity wouldn’t have had a sniff of raising. Maybe you need to think of the bigger picture before writing such stupid things.

      Brian Curran

    • zelig

      You never try to break the stride of a runner in a marathon. Fighting ALS is a marathon, and anyone contibuting to bringing attention, raising money, research, etc is ‘a runner in the marathon’ to beat this dreaded disease. Use your energies in a positive way, not to just criticize the efforts of those who care. Besides criticizing, what have you done to beat this disease?

  • H.Givon

    Could we imagine the relief if continued international cooperation resulted in victory in the war against illnesses like ALS! The brilliance of scientific minds working together would benefit humankind. Here’s to the Israeli/American teamwork. May this project be successful in the near future!

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    I urge those who want to boycott Israel do so. If the finding of help or a cure for ALS is found in Israel, I trust they will continue the boycott and not use the cure. Preferably they suffer and die of the disease. Righteous to the end and principled too.

  • Dev

    What happened to the other three patients??
    Did they show any improvement ?

  • citizenstat

    The world’s schizophrenic behavior towards Israel and the Jews continues to confound me. That wonderful little country, after pounding the bloodthirsty Hamas fanatics into quiescence, may face PA criminal complaints at The Hague while simultaneously bringing a cure for ALS to clinical trials in the U.S. Maybe I need a bucket of ice water over my head to help me understand.

  • anthony c abela

    If anyone is genuinely interested in a write up about ALS, go to the website of Dr. Al Sears in USA and read his report dated 2-9-14. It is an eye opener. It suggests that ALS could be associated with cholesterol lowering statin drugs.