Research on a specific type of stem cell found in the placenta, known as decidua-derived mesenchymal stem cells (DMSC), suggests these cells might be the source of future treatments for multiple sclerosis. The report, “Restrained Th17 response and myeloid cell infiltration into the central nervous system by human decidua-derived mesenchymal stem cells during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis,“ appeared on March 17, 2016, in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
Several medications are available that can delay MS progression, but these drugs do not cure the disease and can cause side effects. Stem cell treatments for MS are a topic of intense interest for patients, physicians, and researchers as potential therapeutic alternatives, but current stem cell replacement therapy for MS is only available in select locations. Effective treatment first involves ablation of the defective immune cells that likely cause demyelination — the hallmark of MS and the cause of its symptoms.
A research team in Spain, led by Beatriz Bravo of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Unidad Funcional de Investigación en Enfermedades Crónicas, Laboratory of Gene Regulation, decided to examine the potential of DMSCs as therapy. These stem cells, according to the investigators, “are a cell population obtained from human placental extraembryonic membranes [that are] able to differentiate into the three germ layers.”
The scientists used an animal model of MS, known as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), to see if the DMSCs could reduce MS-like symptoms. They injected EAE mice with cells from human placentas taken from healthy mothers.
Injection of the DMSCs into the peritoneal region of mice reduced symptoms of the experimental MS. Specifically, the cell injections improved muscle tone and reduced limb paralysis. The injections also reduced immune responses in the animals, decreasing the production of T-cells and specific immune-associated molecules, including one known as IL-17. However, the treatment did not completely reduce signs of the experimental MS, and the effects were not permanent.
“The results of this study, showing that EAE is significantly ameliorated by [DMSCs] suggesting that these cells could be seen as a promising cell therapy for MS,” the scientists concluded.
Further research will be needed, eventually in humans, to explore the potential of these stem cells as a treatment for MS.