New Stem Cell Clinic Trial for Alzheimer’s: Perspectives & Questions

A team at the University of Miami has launched a claimed first of its kind stem cell clinic trial for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). The trial seems somewhat unique in using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) for AD and is being run with biotech Longeveron.Test for Alzheimer's Disease

You can read more on the actual clinic trial including all the pertinent details here. I was unable to find a website for the company, but it is described here. Another stem cell trial for AD was announced last year that drew some notice and questions from me so I’m not sure that the Miami one is truly the first using MSCs. It doesn’t have to be first to be important.

The primary outcome measure in this new trial is safety and the secondary is efficacy for reduced AD symptoms and changes in quality of life. It is described this way officially:

“This is a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of LMSCs (Longeveron Mesenchymal Stem Cells) or placebo in subjects with Alzheimer’s Disease. Following a successful Safety Run-In Phase, a total of twenty-five (25) subjects will be randomized to (2:2:1) to receive low-dose LMSCs, high-dose LMSCs or placebo. After randomization, baseline imaging, and study product infusion, subjects will be followed up at 2,6,13,39 and 52 week post study product infusion. Intention-to-treat study population will be used for the purpose of the endpoint analysis and safety evaluations.”

Ultimately there will be three arms: 20 million Longeveron MSCs, 100 million Longeveron MSCs, and Placebo.

In a press release (PR) on the trial, the PI on the trial was quoted this way, “We believe infusions of these types of stem cells have the potential to be beneficial to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Bernard S. Baumel, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine, and principal investigator for the phase 1 clinical trial.”

The PR goes on to say, “Baumel is collaborating with Joshua M. Hare, M.D., Director of the Miller School’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI) and Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine, using mesenchymal stem cells developed by Longeveron, a UM life sciences spin-off company.”

In this kind of situation with systemic infusions of stem cells for neurological disorders, whether it is AD, autism, MS, or others, I always ask myself this kind of question, “Does a stem cell infusion clinic trial for Alzheimer’s make sense scientifically?”

I’m not 100% sure.

OK, yes, AD has an inflammatory component and MSCs can have anti-inflammatory immunomodulating properties, but is that a strong enough rationale for a trial? Maybe.

Also, in AD the blood brain barrier can be compromised so perhaps some MSCs put into the blood stream can get into the brain or could have a systemic anti-inflammatory effect. Again, maybe. Direct infusion of cells into the brains of AD patients might make more sense even if that seems like a more intense intervention.

One other issue that comes into play is consent in these kinds of trials. If the trial participants do indeed only have mild AD, then perhaps they can do a full informed consent, but that needs to be carefully evaluated. If there is uncertainty about whether their dementia has gone past a certain point, there is a key question of whether such consent is possible any longer. Does consent by family then come into play?

On the other hand, AD is a ubiquitous, fatal, and broadly devastating disease that goes beyond the patients themselves to family with a truly massive negative impact on society. There is no real treatment for AD. For these reasons, it seems reasonable to do trials such as this even if the rationale is a “maybe”. I hope the trial produces clear, encouraging data over the years.

6 thoughts on “New Stem Cell Clinic Trial for Alzheimer’s: Perspectives & Questions”

  1. and sorry just another question Why do you think (see older posts) stem cells won`t make sense for a stroke therapy.
    If “MSCs can have anti-inflammatory immunomodulating properties”
    and “itMSCs secrete higher levels of growth factors usually associated with angiogenesis and healing. Stemedica International’s AD stem cell therapies feature itMSCs, neural stem cells (NSCs) and stem cell factors, which are described in Stemedica International’s U.S. Patent application #20140286910” (Stemedica about the cells and their trial),
    why won´t these growth factors be able to help the damaged cells of the brain to recover?
    Please let us know. Thank you

  2. I just read your article about the other clinical trial, you mentioned above.

    Stemedica wrote:
    “Promising results were achieved during a three-year, intensive, pre-clinical research project supported by a grant from the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). The research was conducted at the Laboratoire d’Optique Biomedicale headed by Professor Theo Lasser at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.”

    What is the big difference between the trials?

    Do you know already more about the outcome of the Stemedica study?

  3. interesting article, you wrote”AD has an inflammatory component and MSCs can have anti-inflammatory immunomodulating properties”
    I would like to know, how much time does such an effect? More than a few days?
    What tissue has been demonstrated this effect?

    Thank you in advance

  4. Michael Finfer, MD

    One thing comes to mind that can really confound a study like this: how are the researchers going to be sure that all of their subjects had Alzheimer’s disease and not one of the laundry list of other, almost indistinguishable deme ting illnesses? Is there going to be an autopsy on every subject, or do they have something else in mind?

    1. Even if the study cohort is, say, 75% Alzheimers and 25% other causes of dementia, if the experimental effect is strong then one would expect to see it in the outcomes, if sample size is sufficient.

  5. Can mesenchymal stem cells given peripherally have globally beneficial effects in the aged? Maybe.

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