ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Dr. Eva Feldman, Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology and Director of the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, was the featured presenter at the University of Michigan Osher Lifetime Learning Institute’s Distinguished Lecture Series on Tuesday (June 12). Held at Washtenaw Community College’s Towsley Auditorium, Dr. Feldman’s lecture was entitled “Stem Cell Therapy for Neurological Diseases: Where Are We Now.”
Dr. Feldman’s talk was broken down into four areas. She began with the economic potential of stem cell research and its importance to the State of Michigan. Over the past 20 years, the life science field has been growing steadily as a career path. She reviewed the history of embryonic stem cells and how government regulations have affected stem cell utilization in the United States and Michigan. The $100 million donation from Alfred Taubman was the catalyst for the University of Michigan Taubman Medical Research Institute, which has benefited Michigan’s University Research Corridor (MURC). The MURC promotes collaboration among the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and other research entities.
Her second topic reviewed how embryonic stem cell lines are created and their medical potential. Dr. Feldman explained how neural progenitor cells, a more defined type of stem cell, are used when treating neurological diseases. In preclinical trials on rats with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), these stem cells showed that they successfully developed into active nerves.
In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved phase I trials of stem cell transplantation in human ALS patients. After showing the trial was safe, phase II began in 2013 with more patients added to confirm efficacy in the treatment. Dr. Feldman illustrated the statistics that were used to measure results of patients from the trials as compared to a historical control group. The encouraging results of the phase I and II trials have led to plans for a phase III, which will involve a much larger patient population and multiple sites.
Lastly, Dr. Feldman discussed the future of stem cell research. Phase III of the ALS stem cell trial in humans can commence once funding is secured and the FDA gives final approval. Next, the University of Michigan Program for Neurology Research & Discovery hopes to begin preclinical trials using stem cell therapies to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Feldman completed the morning with an enthusiastic question and answer period among the attendees.