Dan Desmond was on a hike one day when he had to stop and return home—his legs were no longer working properly. His physical condition had been degrading for some time, but he had no idea that he would be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS.
The disease continues to progress, and Dan is currently in a wheelchair, but the 64-year-old remains positive. “I still have a great life with my children, grandchildren, and friends,” he said. Even though his condition may have progressed too far to benefit from developing stem cell treatments, Dan is happy that “the research is going to help thousands of people” in the future.
The cause of ALS is uncertain, but key mutations associated with the disease cause the cells in the surrounding nervous system to damage motor neurons (the nerves that control bodily movements). Eventually the sufferer loses control of his or her ability to contract muscles necessary for moving, speaking, eating, and eventually even breathing. Researchers hope that they can replace the mutated nervous system cells using stem cells, which would drastically slow down the degeneration caused by ALS.
Researchers like Don Cleveland, PhD, chair of cellular and molecular medicine at the University Of California San Diego School Of Medicine, have already been able to slow down the progression ALS dramatically in some animal trials. If future stem cell trials are successful, human trials may be planned within the next four years. To read more about Dan Desmond and this exciting stem cell research, click here for the full article on the CIRM website.