Safety and efficacy of first-in-man intrathecal injection of human astrocytes (AstroRx®) in ALS patients: phase I/IIa clinical trial results

Marc Gotkine, Yoseph Caraco, Yossef Lerner, Simcha Blotnick, Maor Wanounou, Shalom Guy Slutsky, Judith Chebath, Graciela Kuperstein, Elena Estrin, Tamir Ben-Hur, Arik Hasson, Kfir Molakandov, Tehila Sonnenfeld, Yafit Stark, Ariel Revel, Michel Revel, Michal Izrael*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Malfunction of astrocytes is implicated as one of the pathological factors of ALS. Thus, intrathecal injection of healthy astrocytes in ALS can potentially compensate for the diseased astrocytes. AstroRx® is an allogeneic cell-based product, composed of healthy and functional human astrocytes derived from embryonic stem cells. AstroRx® was shown to clear excessive glutamate, reduce oxidative stress, secrete various neuroprotective factors, and act as an immunomodulator. Intrathecal injection of AstroRx® to animal models of ALS slowed disease progression and extended survival. Here we report the result of a first-in-human clinical study evaluating intrathecal injection of AstroRx® in ALS patients. Methods: We conducted a phase I/IIa, open-label, dose-escalating clinical trial to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and therapeutic effects of intrathecal injection of AstroRx® in patients with ALS. Five patients were injected intrathecally with a single dose of 100 × 106 AstroRx® cells and 5 patients with 250 × 106 cells (low and high dose, respectively). Safety and efficacy assessments were recorded for 3 months pre-treatment (run-in period) and 12 months post-treatment (follow-up period). Results: A single administration of AstroRx® at either low or high doses was safe and well tolerated. No adverse events (AEs) related to AstroRx® itself were reported. Transient AEs related to the Intrathecal (IT) procedure were all mild to moderate. The study demonstrated a clinically meaningful effect that was maintained over the first 3 months after treatment, as measured by the pre-post slope change in ALSFRS-R. In the 100 × 106 AstroRx® arm, the ALSFRS-R rate of deterioration was attenuated from − 0.88/month pre-treatment to − 0.30/month in the first 3 months post-treatment (p = 0.039). In the 250 × 106 AstroRx® arm, the ALSFRS-R slope decreased from − 1.43/month to − 0.78/month (p = 0.0023). The effect was even more profound in a rapid progressor subgroup of 5 patients. No statistically significant change was measured in muscle strength using hand-held dynamometry and slow vital capacity continued to deteriorate during the study. Conclusions: Overall, these findings suggest that a single IT administration of AstroRx® to ALS patients at a dose of 100 × 106 or 250 × 106 cells is safe. A signal of beneficial clinical effect was observed for the first 3 months following cell injection. These results support further investigation of repeated intrathecal administrations of AstroRx®, e.g., every 3 months. Trial Registration: NCT03482050.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • ALS
  • Astrocytes
  • Cell therapy
  • Clinical trial
  • Intrathecal injection


Dive into the research topics of 'Safety and efficacy of first-in-man intrathecal injection of human astrocytes (AstroRx®) in ALS patients: phase I/IIa clinical trial results'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this