The Future of Stem Cell Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis Patients Relies on Clinical Trial Participation

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by Maureen Newman |

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MS stem cell therapy clinical trials

Among the different therapeutic approaches being explored for treating MS, adult stem cell therapy continues to be one of the most discussed and anticipated in the MS community. “Stem cells” — the common term for undifferentiated, self-renewing proliferating cells — are currently being investigated for their ability to treat patients in a wide range of disease indications, including multiple sclerosis, due to their ability to reboot the immune system, address inflammation in the body and repair damage caused by injury or disease. For MS, some researchers believe that stem cell therapy can effectively repair damaged myelin, preventing the progression of the disease and minimizing its effect on patients’ quality of life.

Stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis begins with the introduction of adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) taken from the Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF) — the fatty material that is removed in procedures such as lipsosuction — which is processed and reintroduced back into the body. From there, these MSCs are believed to be able to travel past the blood brain barrier and repair the myelin sheath around nerve cells that becomes damaged by the immune system in MS in a process known as “remyelination.” In addition, stem cells also act as modulators of the immune system in patients with multiple sclerosis, as MSCs secrete cytokines and other molecules that can have an anti-inflammatory effect or produce an inhibitory action on pro-inflammatory pathways. Since MS is an autoimmune disease, if stem cell therapy is proven to restore normal function to the immune system as well as repair damaged myelin, it would represent a revolutionary, next generation approach to treating the disease.

Clinical Trials Testing Stem Cell Therapy For MS

While stem cell therapy is currently available to patients seeking therapeutic alternatives for treating MS where traditional prescribed therapies have failed, the treatment is still being studied, particularly with respect to how effective the therapy is in improving quality of life for patients, and how to best deliver stem cells back into the body. StemGenex, a company that is committed to advancing stem cell therapy for a wide range of disease, is currently managing several clinical studies one of which is for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. ”Outcomes Data of Adipose Stem Cells to Treat Multiple Sclerosis” aims to recruit 100 patients between the ages of 18 and 65 years old to particulate in the study. Recruited participants will be treated with a stem cell concentrate derived from their own adult adipose (fat) tissue, or the stromal vascular fraction (SVF).

Researching clinicians administer a customized treatment that may include: intravenous drip, intra nasal administration, bladder catheterization, or direct site injections. The locations in the body receiving the cells are the areas in most need of immunomodulatory stem cells to help repair damage. When the cells are in the patient’s body, they disperse into adjacent tissue, differentiate into mature cells of the surrounding tissue, secrete immunomodulatory growth factors, and/or attract blood vessel growth. In the case of MS, stem cells’ ability to differentiate into mature cells that may repair myelin as well as stabilize the immune system is what researchers believe can positively impact quality of life for patients as well as slow down disease progression.

For the present clinical studies, to determine if there is a benefit to receiving a “dose” of SVF, research clinicians will monitor patients for a variety of outcome measures. Primarily, StemGenex is interested in observing a change in overall quality of life over a twelve-month period following treatment at baseline. During this twelve-month period, patients will be assessed for quality of life changes at times of one, three, six, and twelve months following treatment using the Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life Inventory (MSQLI). According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, this inventory is composed of ten separate rating scales that assess everything from feelings of fatigue to sexual satisfaction and can be completed entirely by the patient in approximately 30-45 minutes. The change in score from each individual rating scale during the twelve-month period is a separate secondary outcome measure in the study.

The Need For MS Clinical Trial Participation

In spite of recent therapeutic advancements, there are still major unmet medical needs for those with multiple sclerosis. While improved disease modifying drugs continue to delay the progression of the relapsing forms of the disease, most patients continue to suffer from worsening symptoms, and can eventually develop secondary progressive MS, for which there are no FDA approved therapies. In many cases, MS patients have few if any options when it comes to conventional therapy, making the exploration of alternative treatment options such as stem cell therapy critically important to helping those living with the disease.

Stem Cell therapy is a different approach from taking a prescribed medicine — its success depends on patients’ willingness to try the therapy themselves and allow investigators to optimize it for the best results possible. Those who participate are given early access to a treatment that could potentially improve their condition. In addition, their participation makes it possible for researchers to accelerate development of novel therapies. In this way, the future of stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis and whether it is fully developed into a mainstream treatment option for those with MS depends upon clinical studies that confirm its effectiveness.

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