Thomas is explaining that the Mall of America has no heating system. What?! This is Minnesota.
Introduces Dr Stephen Huhn, who’s going to talk about Neural Stem Cell Transplantation.
The cell we were developing is a multi-potent stem cell — a neural stem call taken from one donated fetal brain. One. It’s capable of both self-renewal and differentiation. These are the 2 main things that neural stem cells can do — renew their own population and turn into the 3 main cells in the brain and the cord. If you can replace those lost cells after SCI, you can theoretically get return.
He’s showing pages from the papers published on animal models using these cells after SCi. They did a study of thoracic injuries with results that were promising enough to keep going. They were looking for 3-24 months post-injury patients — wanted 12 of them. And that took 2 years — just to find the patients. They went into a cervical patient study … he’s showing data that we saw 2 years ago in Seattle. Not sure why.
Annnnnnd we walk through all the data from both the thoracic and the cervical studies. I’m having a bit of a hard time listening to this, tbh — the end of this story is that the company that was funding this study backed out. The middle part of the story is what he’s describing right now, namely all the meticulous ways that they measured outcomes after transplanting millions of neural stem cells into damaged cords. How we measure success really IS a big deal, and not well understood.
The good news is that in these studies there were only 2 serious adverse events (an infection and a fecal impaction, both resolved) … but nobody got spasms or pain or lost function, even when they made the dosing much higher in their later patients. The cervical patients, like the thoracic patients, did get some sensory return. The results he’s showing us are called Minimally Detectable Difference. The problem they ran into was that their results were too frail, too modest, too not enough to justify more investment. Their patients got improved strength, but not improved function. You can measure activity of a muscle, but that’s not the same as watching someone open a jar. Right?
The investors wanted to see the jar get opened, it didn’t, so they cut off the spigot.
Image of a balance board with things stacked on either side: one side is therapeutic effect, unmet need, and funding support. Other side is risk, cost, and time. The struggle is always to make them come out even.
In Alzheimer’s research, there have been 1100 compounds tested. Only FOUR have been approved, and none of them are very effective. What we have from his team’s work is the knowledge that neural stem cells do no harm, have positive sensory effects in chronic thoracic injuries and positive motor effects in chronic cervical injuries. Not a failure, but an outcome and we need to know about it.