This is taken from a discussion I participated in regarding potential uses of stem cells to treat incurable diseases such as multiple scelerosis that I found particularly interesting:
“Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system characterized by damaged myelin sheath. The myelin coating around axons of nerve cells allows for the nervous system to function properly. Damage to the myelin sheath is caused by attack from the body’s immune system. The cause of MS is unknown; it is thought that the disease could occur due to genetic mutation or from a viral infection.
Specific stem cells with regulatory properties of the immune system are thought to have a potential benefit for use in MS treatment. Stem cells, such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), could help prevent the immune system to continue to attack the integrity of the myelin sheath of the CNS when used in therapy. This can assist in delaying disease progression. In this type of therapy, adult stem cells are harvested from the patient’s own body (bone marrow), human umbilical cord, and bone marrow. Both MSCs and T regulatory cells are embedded inside of the harvested tissue, and later isolated from fat tissues.
Neural stem/precursor cells (NPCs), derived from the CNS, are also being used for therapeutic applications in MS treatments. These stem cells can serve to protect the myelin sheath from immune system attack.
MS currently has no cure, and treatments serve to delay progression of the disease, but none consistently so. Some scientists believe that the use of stem cells in MS treatment has the most potential for discovering a cure or reliable treatment to effectively alleviate suffering from patients and increase quality of life.
Recent research has suggested stem cells from the brain carrying the CD140 protein, a protein that makes up oligodendrocytes, which often form myelin, are the most superior candidates for MS treatment with stem cells. This would allow the restoration of damaged myelin throughout the CNS. A doctor from Rochester Medical Center, currently involved in research in this area, stated: “These cells are our best candidates right now for someday helping patients with M.S., or children with fatal hereditary myelin disorders…These cells migrate more efficiently throughout the brain, and they myelinate other cells more quickly and more efficiently than any other cells assessed thus far. Now we finally have a cell type that we think is safe and effectivie enough to propose clinical trials”( 4).
Jennifer Gutierrez Rodriguez”
(1) MS Research Australia, http://www.msra.org.au/living-ms
(2) PubMedHealth, USNLB, Multiple Scelrosis, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001747/
(3) Baron Van Evercooren A, Franklin R, Kerr D, Martino G, Stem cell transplantation in multiple sclerosis: current status and future prospects, Nature Reviews Neurology 6, 247-255, May 2010http://www.nature.com/nrneurol/journal/v6/n5/abs/nrneurol.2010.35.html
(4) News Medical, Brain stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis, http://www.news-medical.net/news/20111015/Brain-stem-cell-treatment-for-multiple-sclerosis.aspx