INTRODUCTION: Recently it has been shown in animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that stem cells significantly slow the progression of the disease and prolong survival. We have evaluated the feasibility and safety of a method of intraspinal cord implantation of autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in a few well‐monitored patients with ALS.
METHOD: Bone marrow collection was performed according to the standard procedure by aspiration from the posterior iliac crest. Ex vivo expansion of mesenchymal stem cells was induced according to Pittenger’s protocol. The cells were suspended in 2 ml of autologous cerebrospinal fluid and transplanted into the spinal cord by a micrometric pump injector.
RESULTS: No patient manifested major adverse events such as respiratory failure or death. Minor adverse events were intercostal pain irradiation (4 patients) which was reversible after a mean period of three days after surgery, and leg sensory dysesthesia (5 patients) which was reversible after a mean period of six weeks after surgery. No modification of the spinal cord volume or other signs of abnormal cell proliferation were observed.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results appear to demonstrate that the procedures of ex vivo expansion of autologous mesenchymal stem cells and of transplantation into the spinal cord of humans are safe and well tolerated by ALS patients.