A Look into Stem Cells for the Treatment of MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks the protective coatings of the nerves. Symptoms can vary from one person to the next and range in severity. For many individuals, the condition significantly impacts daily life, presenting issues such as gait changes, vision loss, pain, impaired coordination, and fatigue.

While there are some drugs already available to manage the symptoms of MS, some may look for an alternative option if not quite seeing benefits. Recently, researchers have been examining the effectiveness of stem cell therapy to treat MS through clinical trials.

Stem cells are believed to replace malfunctioning cells within the patient’s immune system when transplanted. When infused, they have the potential to repair and protect tissue within the central nervous system, thereby mitigating the neurodegenerative effects of Multiple Sclerosis.

Stem Cell Therapy for MS: Promising Results

Many FDA-approved clinical trials have already begun to showcase the merits of stem cell treatment for MS. Here’s a brief look at some of the most compelling research:

  • In a study published by Northwestern University researchers in 2019, 94% patients who underwent stem cell transplantation experienced improvement in functions, compared to 40% of their peers who did not receive the treatment. Their Expanded Disability Status Scale scores improved as well, compared to their peers, whose scores declined.
  • In a meta-analysis published in 2017, researchers compiled results from 15 studies conducted over an 11-year period with more than 750 people with MS. In 83% of participants who received stem cell therapy, disease progress halted for up to two years following treatment.
  • In a small study published in 2017, researchers noted that 95% of patients with aggressive relapsing-remitting MS, in which the disease has active periods and remissions, experienced a remission lasting at least one year. More than two-thirds of the participants (69%) experienced a relapse for five years.
  • Results from a three-year trial published in 2015 showed patients who underwent immune suppression before receiving a stem cell transplant witnessed drastic improvements in quality of life, function, and neurologic disability scores. In the three years following the treatment, 90% of participants had no further disease progression, and 86% didn’t experience any relapses.
  • Another Northwestern study showed that stem cell transplantation may not only improve quality of life for individuals with RRMS, but could actually reverse disability.

The aforementioned studies examined the efficacy of stem cells, such as those found in cord blood, also known as hematopoietic stem cells. Because there were certain risks observed in the trials, researchers have recently begun exploring a new alternative: cord tissue derived stem cells, or mesenchymal stem cells.

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy is different in that it may not require immunosuppression. Thus, it may present fewer risks while still minimizing inflammation and potentially even repairing damage caused by MS. A team of Ottawa researchers began exploring the theory in 2015, and there are several clinical trials still ongoing to determine the best protocols for stem cell therapy for MS patients.

This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for multiple sclerosis, also known as stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions. 

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