Ben Gurion University scientists have developed a technique for prolonging the lives of patients suffering from amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), The Jerusalem Post reported.
The research team of Prof. Esther Priel, Dr. Aviv Gazit and Prof. Shimon Slavin created chemical substances that can increase the amount of telomerase, the protein that lengthens the life of cells, to slow the gradual cellular disintegration associated with ALS.
Successful experiments were conducted first on mice, then in human cells.
The announcement of the advance was made on the 30th day after the passing of Dov Lautman, the industrialist and philanthropist who died of ALS. The research itself was funded by the Israel ALS Research Association, of which Lautman was a major donor.
Research had shown that through genetic engineering it was possible to extend the lives of telomeres by 35 percent, and strengthen them against infections and the breakdown of muscular capacity.
BGU’s research and development arm, B.G. Negev, has signed a deal for development and licensing of a new product to treat ALS based on the discovery, with a private U.S. investment fund that gave over $1 million to continue the research for the next two years.
“This is a scientific breakthrough, as these substances have great potential not only in coping with the degeneration of the nervous system but with other disorders connected to aging,” said Priel.