Submitted by Frank Rollins as part of our contributors program.
Local Fox TV stations are proclaiming a medical trial by Neuralstem (NYSEAMEX: CUR) “one of the most powerful stories we’ve ever reported.” A community victimized by a deadly disease has found new hope in Ted Harada, one of the first patients to ever experience partial recovery from ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is a nerve disease that slowly incapacitates its victims. Universally fatal, ALS eventually inhibits basic motor functions like breathing. There has never been a treatment nor cure prior to stem cell treatments like the one being administered by Neuralstem.
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Harada completed a second surgery on Wednesday, and doctors released him to go home this weekend. “Harada’s surgery is giving hope to ALS patients all over the world,” Fox Atlanta TV posted to Facebook late Sunday night. Within minutes, the post received dozens of Facebook Likes and heartfelt comments. Understandably, the story of Harada’s improbable recovery has gained widespread attention. To date, Harada has been featured on CNN, CBS, FOX, Crain’s, Gizmodo, Newsweek magazine, and dozens of other media outlets.
Neuralstem discovered that ALS’ fatal nerve damage could be slowed or reversed by supporting otherwise healthy cells in the spinal column. To this end, Neuralstem found targeted stem cells that accomplished this goal and completed preliminary safety studies in animals. It then applied for human treatment and soon gained the FDA’s approval and prestigious orphan designation. Using Neuralstem’s patented device for intra-spinal cord surgery, trained surgeons injected targeted stem cells into 18 patients at low dosages, monitoring their health over subsequent months.
On Thursday — one day after the trial ended and after most observations had been completed — lead investigator Eva Feldman commented, “In a subset of patients, we seem to see that the disease [ALS] is no longer progressing.”
For many in the ALS community, such a statement was inconceivable. Never before had anyone treated or slowed the deadly progression of ALS.
Because of government regulation, Neuralstem’s 18-person trial was designed uniquely to test safety, not to prove health benefits. Based on available data, the safety of the study looks promising. Feldman expressed her optimism after several patients showed remarkable health improvements, including Harada, whose symptoms diminished after only one treatment at less than 1/3 of eventual dosing levels.
“It’s been nothing short of miraculous,” Harada said last year in an interview with CNN. “I cannot begin to explain the difference it has made.”
Harada received his second set of injections at Emory University in Atlanta. Enrollment for Phase II of Neuralstem’s human trial is expected to begin shortly, with eventual partnerships possible with larger pharma companies like Pfizer, Roche, or GlaxoSmithKline, among many other options.
Fox will be airing a special segment on Harada’s surgery tonight at 5pm ET.