Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive untreatable neurodegenerative disorder, leading to the death of the cortical and spinal motoneurons (MNs). Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (BM-MSCs) may represent a new approach to slowing down the progression of
ALS by providing neurotrophic support to host MNs and by having an anti-inflammatory effect. We have designed a prospective, nonrandomized, open-label clinical trial (phase I/IIa, EudraCT No. 2011-000362-35) to assess the safety and efficacy of autologous multipotent BM-MSCs in ALS treatment.
Autologous BM-MSCs were isolated and expanded under GMP conditions. Patients received 15 ± 4.5 × 106 of BM-MSCs via lumbar puncture into the cerebrospinal fluid. Patients were monitored for 6 months before treatment and then for an 18-month
follow-up period. Potential adverse reactions were assessed, and the clinical outcome was evaluated by the ALS functional rating scale (ALSFRS), forced vital capacity (FVC), and weakness scales (WSs) to assess muscle strength on the lower and upper extremities. In total, 26 patients were enrolled
in the study and were assessed for safety; 23 patients were suitable for efficacy evaluation. After intrathecal BM-MSC application, about 30% of the patients experienced a mild to moderate headache, resembling the headaches after a standard lumbar puncture. No suspected serious adverse reactions
(SUSAR) were observed. We found a reduction in ALSFRS decline at 3 months after application (p < 0.02) that, in some cases, persisted for 6 months ( p < 0.05). In about 80% of the patients, FVC values remained stable or above 70% for a time period
of 9 months. Values of WS were stable in 75% of patients at 3 months after application. Our results demonstrate that the intrathecal application of BM-MSCs in ALS patients is a safe procedure and that it can slow down progression of the disease.