Thursday, May 13, 2010

Multiple Sclerosis: safety established – and an early hint of benefit - using adult stem cells

More solid work from Prof Neil Scolding of the UK, published last week in the Journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (part of the Nature group or journals). Here is the link to the abstract:

It describes a phase I trial (that means establishing that it can be done safely, but not yet establishing effectiveness) of mobilising marrow stem cells from MS patients. Take the marrow sample, and reinject a mix of stem cells into the circulation, to home in on damaged MS plaques in the brain and do some good…


This phase I research should now lead to bigger trials, and refinement of the protocol to maximise benefit.


It does not quite justify the excitement of the newspaper report below, but is still a solid first step in establishing safety and a hint of benefit. And like ASC treatment in diabetes, the key appears to be catching the illness in the early stages, before most of the damage is done.




Stem cells raise hope for treatment for multiple sclerosis patients Thousands of MS sufferers could benefit from a revolutionary treatment that injects them with stem cells taken from their own bone marrow.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent 05 May 2010



Researchers have long believed that the stem cells could halt and even reverse the effects of the disease by patching up the damaged parts of the brain and spinal cord.


Now British scientists carrying out one of the first ever trials into the procedure believe that they have proved that it works.


The research team, led by Professor Neil Scolding, at the University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust, believe that the treatment has stabilised the condition and shown some "benefits".


"We are encouraged by the results of this early study," he said.


"We believe that stem cells mobilised from the marrow to the blood are responsible, and that they help improve disease in several ways."…


Researchers found that the patients suffered "no serious adverse effects" from the treatment and tests suggested the disease was stable and there had been improvement in the effectiveness of damaged nerve cells.


They showed that the damaged nerve pathways were able to carry electrical pulses more effectively after the treatment.


Now the researchers want to carry out a longer and larger study to see if the treatment can be improved and works consistently.


Professor Neil Scolding said: "The safety data are reassuring and the suggestion of benefit tantalising."


Dr Claire Rice, co-author, said: "The results are very encouraging. We would have expected these pathways to get worse but they have actually got better.


Bone marrow is known to contain stem cells capable of replacing cells in many types of tissues and organs – and so is of great interest to those working to develop new treatments for many diseases, including those affecting the nervous system.


An earlier study on 21 adults in the Lancet also showed that stem cells could halt the progress of the disease and even show some improvement.


The idea is that if caught early enough the stem cells could protect patients from the permanent damage caused to nerve cells and prevent disability.