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Scientists Working With Stem Cells To Treat ALS

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —There are 15 new cases of ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease diagnosed each day; treatment options have been limited but scientist are now testing stem cells as a new way to treat ALS.

David Neufeglise, 41, was a healthy family man and mechanical engineer when he started noticing constantly twitching in his arm. After months of tests, the devastating diagnosis came back as ALS.

"Hearing a doctor say it, it takes your breath away," David said. "You think about all your hopes and dreams for the future and your family, and your career, and everything. And it puts all those into question."

Life suddenly shifted for David, his wife and their three daughters.

ALS is progressive and there's no cure. Most patients die within three to five years.

So, David enrolled in a clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The treatment from brainstorm cell therapeutics uses the patient's own stem cells. They're multiplied and matured to make them behave more like brain cells, then injected back into the patient where the cells help repair the brain and spinal cord.

Researchers hope the treatment can decrease brain inflammation that causes worsening of ALS.

"These stem cells from people's own bodies can act like an anti-inflammatory drug," explained Dr. Merit Cudkowicz, an ALS specialist.

The disease has already affected David's balance and his hand movements but he says he's grateful to take part in this study.

"My hope for this trial is that finally ALS patients have a powerful weapon they can fight the disease with."

He gets injections every 8 weeks and is encouraged about what the treatment could do for him and others.

About 200 ALS patients are being recruited to take part in the clinical trial. Three previous smaller trials showed positive results.

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