Sunnybrook has the largest ALS clinic in Canada and is leading a number of initiatives towards finding a cure, inventing and testing promising new treatments, and developing innovative ways to improve the lives of patients and their families.
The vision Dr. Zinman and his colleagues’ vision is to use Sunnybrook’s state-of-the-art MRI-guided focused ultrasound technology to non-invasively transplant autologous (i.e. the patient’s own) stem cells into the spinal cord to protect and support motor neurons. Two promising stem call sources are from the patient’s own bone marrow or nasal cartilage. These cells will then be reprogrammed to adopt a neuronal lineage to secrete growth factors that can protect motor neurons.
In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Toronto, a $150,000 grant was obtained from the Weston Foundation to conduct these studies in an ALS mouse model. This research is underway, and the MRI-guided focused ultrasound procedure has thus far been shown to be safe. Now that safety has been demonstrated in the ALS in vivo model, Sunnybrook will be prepared to translate this procedure to patients with ALS. Dr. Zinman and his colleagues are planning a meeting with Health Canada later this year and anticipate initiating a phase 1 study in patients with ALS in 2017, once funding is secured.