Autologous mesenchymal stem cells, commonly called MSCs, have been shown to induce immunologic and neurologic effects (neuroregenerative and neuroprotective) in animal models. Autologous transplant means that the cells are taken from then re-injected into the same subject.
Under the right conditions, animal studies have shown that MSCs can mature into myelin-producing cells in MS disease models. Myelin is important because MS is characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, a protective covering that surrounds the nerves of the central nervous system.
Adipose-derived stem cells (ASC) are adult MSCs taken from fat. They can be isolated through enzymatic digestion. MSCs are also found in bone marrow, skin, and other body parts.
Mesenchymal Stem Cell Studies
A recent study evaluated the safety and tolerability of intrathecal (injected into the spine) autologous transplant of adipose stem cells over one year. The secondary objectives were relapse rate and progression of the disability which were assessed 18 months after the study began. Researchers aimed to achieve local immunomodulation (return) of the participant’s immune system via transplantation of autologous ASCs.
Results of the study suggested that ASC intrathecal therapy for MS is safe and slows the progression of the disease. The method may benefit people with rapidly progressive MS because it is a powerful anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive treatment. No differences in the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score were found in the 18 month-period between groups of relapsing-remitting and slow progressing MS participants. No disease progression occurred among participants by the end of the study follow-up. No serious or severe adverse effects were observed. Time without progression of the disease was 18 months for most participants.
ASCs are promising candidates for cell-based therapies aimed at stopping and reversing the loss of myelin in MS patients, but ACSs should be reserved for aggressive cases, for disease still in the inflammatory phase, and for the rare malignant form of the disease.
Bone marrow-MSCs were intrathecally administered in another study. The study showed that the treatment was safe and well tolerated in people with MS and that no adverse events occurred.
Another recently published study demonstrated that damaging immune system defects seen in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be repaired using umbilical-cord MSCs.
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