We all remember the popular ice bucket challenge in 2015 that became viral on social media for creating awareness about ALS. But do we really know how serious and deadly ALS actually is? Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS is an extremely rare neurological disorder. “Amyotrophic” can be broken into- “A” meaning no, “myo” meaning muscle and “trophic” meaning nourishment, which would sum up as ‘no muscle nourishment’.
Motor neurons are connected from the brain to the spine and spine to the muscles. The brain commands muscles to perform voluntary movements. With ALS, these motor neurons will progressively degenerate leading to the disconnect between the brain and the muscles. As a result, the muscles will be weakened over a period of time. In fact, once you have been diagnosed, there is no end to the list of complications. It only gets worse with time until one is completely dependent on a wheelchair and a caretaker.
One loses simple body functions like ability to speak breath, swallow or move hands and legs. It hits around 40-5 years of age and the life expectancy is 2-5 years after diagnosis. Losing independence could make you feel paralyzed more than the physical state. Patients are mostly dependent on ventilators for breathing and respiratory complications are very common. They may lose their speech functions as well.
What to expect with stem cell therapy?
Under anesthesia, Bone marrow-derived stem cells are isolated as you lay on the back. You can expect pressure but no pain. Post-procedure headaches and nausea are common symptom but there will no adverse effects. Patients are advised to complete bed rest for recovery. These stem cells will be injected back into the patient via lumbar puncture, intravenous and intramuscular injections.
With stem cell therapy, you can certainly delay the progression of the disease and prevent any further damage. This means that life expectancy will increase. It will not completely cure the condition, but there is definitely an improvement in basic functioning such as breathing, speaking, hand movements, and muscle strength. This can be a huge achievement for someone suffering from ALS. Patients are able to express themselves better and will become more independent to perform daily activities. It is important here to note that many medications for this life-threatening condition have contra-indications that additionally affect the patient negatively. While the extent to which stem cells will help in healing can vary between individuals, it is safe and free of any risks or adverse effects.