Stem cells are cells that can both reproduce themselves (self renew) and
develop into many different cell types (differentiate). Researchers
believe that stem cells may, one day, be used to treat MS, but research
into stem cells is still at the very early stages. Stem cell therapy is
any treatment that uses or targets stem cells. This is usually to help
replace or repair damaged cells or tissues, but can also be used to
prevent damage from happening in the first place. There are currently no
approved stem cell therapies for MS.
One exciting area of stem cell research is to identify how to encourage the brain's own stem cells to regenerate new myelin.
and MRI studies both indicate that remyelination can occur in MS
There are a number of models of MS in animals in which the
experimental demyelination induced by toxins or virus/immune mechanisms
is subsequently almost completely repaired. In these models the
remyelination is carried out not by the cells (oligodendrocytes) which
initially made the myelin but by immature progenitor cells or stem
cells. Such cells can be identified in various sites in the adult human
CNS including in regions surrounding MS lesions.
Certain types of
stem cells such as mesenchymal stem cells have also been shown in MS to
exert an immunomodulatory effect by preventing immune damage to the
nervous system. Find our more about the MESEMS trial in our
film interview with Dr Antonio Uccelli, a leading MS stem cells researcher.
Read more about stem cells and recent research in
MS in focus - stem cells and regeneration in MS