Stem Cell Therapy Shows Promise for MS in Mouse Model

Posted: May 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm

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Newswise LA JOLLA, CAMay 15, 2014Mice crippled by an autoimmune disease similar to multiple sclerosis (MS) regained the ability to walk and run after a team of researchers led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), University of Utah and University of California (UC), Irvine implanted human stem cells into their injured spinal cords.

Remarkably, the mice recovered even after their bodies rejected the human stem cells. When we implanted the human cells into mice that were paralyzed, they got up and started walking a couple of weeks later, and they completely recovered over the next several months, said study co-leader Jeanne Loring, a professor of developmental neurobiology at TSRI.

Thomas Lane, an immunologist at the University of Utah who co-led the study with Loring, said he had never seen anything like it. Weve been studying mouse stem cells for a long time, but we never saw the clinical improvement that occurred with the human cells that Dr. Loring's lab provided, said Lane, who began the study at UC Irvine.

The mices dramatic recovery, which is reported online ahead of print by the journal Stem Cell Reports, could lead to new ways to treat multiple sclerosis in humans.

"This is a great step forward in the development of new therapies for stopping disease progression and promoting repair for MS patients, said co-author Craig Walsh, a UC Irvine immunologist.

Stem Cell Therapy for MS

MS is an autoimmune disease of the brain and spinal cord that affects more than a half-million people in North America and Europe, and more than two million worldwide. In MS, immune cells known as T cells invade the upper spinal cord and brain, causing inflammation and ultimately the loss of an insulating coating on nerve fibers called myelin. Affected nerve fibers lose their ability to transmit electrical signals efficiently, and this can eventually lead to symptoms such as limb weakness, numbness and tingling, fatigue, vision problems, slurred speech, memory difficulties and depression.

Current therapies, such as interferon beta, aim to suppress the immune attack that strips the myelin from nerve fibers. But they are only partially effective and often have significant adverse side effects. Lorings group at TSRI has been searching for another way to treat MS using human pluripotent stem cells, which are cells that have the potential to transform into any of the cell types in the body.

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Stem Cell Therapy Shows Promise for MS in Mouse Model

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