Using patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells, neurodegenerative disease phenotypes have been recapitulated and their pathogenesis analysed leading to significant progress in drug screening. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, high-throughput screening using induced pluripotent stem cells-derived motor neurons has identified candidate drugs. Owing to induced pluripotent stem cell-based drug evaluation/screening, three compounds, retigabine, ropinirole and bosutinib, have progressed to clinical trials. Retigabine blocks hyperexcitability and improves survival in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patient-derived motor neurons. In a randomized clinical trial (n = 65), treatment with retigabine reduced neuronal excitability after 8 weeks. Ropinirole, identified in a high-throughput screening, attenuates pathological phenotypes in patient-derived motor neurons. In a trial limited by a small sample size (n = 20), ropinirole was tolerable and had clinical benefits on function and survival. A phase 1 study of bosutinib has reported safety and tolerability for 12 weeks. Thus, these clinical trials show safety and positive effects and confirm the reliability of stem cell-based drug discovery. This novel strategy leads to reduced costs and time when compared to animal testing and opens new avenues for therapy in intractable diseases.
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