AUB Scientists Hope to Cure Diseases through Stem Cell Therapy
|Dr. Yamout performing the procedure
Scientists at AUB have started a pioneering clinical trial to test bone
marrow stem cell therapy on up to six individuals suffering from advanced
multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease with potentially debilitating
The trial is among the first being carried out in the world, as part of
an international effort that was initiated about a year ago, following
successful animal trials. AUB professor and neuroscientist Bassem Yamout,
who is a member of the European Charcot Foundation Expert Group on the
use of human stem cells for treatment of multiple sclerosis, is leading
the AUB trial which was launched on October 3. AUB Assistant Dean for
Research Ali Bazarbachi and his team will be collaborating with Dr. Yamout
on the experiment.
Yamout explained in detail the therapy process: "It took around one
and a half hours, during which I injected more than one hundred million
stem cells into the cerebrospinal fluid of the patient in the neck and
low back area. This fluid bathes the spinal cord and brain and will carry
the cells to the damaged areas, where they will hopefully help with the
repair. The patient did very well with no complications and was discharged
the following day," said Dr. Yamout.
If successful, this trial will have tremendous implications for other
neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke, and physical
trauma to the spinal cord.
The AUB human trial was made on a 36-year-old male who has been suffering
from multiple sclerosis since 1996 and has been wheelchair-bound since
early 2006. "For the past 100 years, we have been trying to prevent
or improve neurological diseases," said Dr. Yamout, "but for
the first time, we hope to repair the damage already done."
Scientists discovered that stem cells could potentially reverse the damage
caused by neurological diseases. Basically, each adult human body retains
in certain organs original embryonic cells, known as stem cells, which
have the potential to differentiate into any adult cell type. In the multiple
sclerosis clinical trial, scientists at AUB extracted a certain amount
of stem cells from an MS patient's bone marrow, grew them in the lab for
four weeks, then re-injected them in the patient's lower back and neck
into the cerebrospinal fluid of the central nervous system which is damaged
from the disease. It is hoped that once those stem cells settle in the
damaged areas, they will differentiate into new neural cells, replace
damaged ones, and thus reverse any disability caused by the disease. Moreover,
scientists also expect that these new neural cells will also secrete substances
that will aid in repair.
The work of the AUB team, which helped in setting up the protocol needed
for the human trials, represents one of the first scientifically-based
stem cell therapeutic trials involving MS patients in the world. Patients
participating in the trial will be monitored over a 12-month period, thus
allowing scientists to detect any improvement.
"This clinical trial is certainly at the forefront of research in
this field," said Yamout, who is also a member of the newly-inaugurated
Abu-Haidar Neuroscience Institute, directed by Professor Rose-Mary Boustany.