The National MS Society is a driving force of MS research to stop MS in its tracks, restore function that has been lost, and end MS forever. Our current investments total $90 million to drive solutions to assist every single person with MS to live their best life. To make the most progress for everyone, we pursue all promising paths. One of these paths is stem cells, including adult stem cells that act as “spare parts” inside the body.
There is exciting progress being made through innovative research related to the potential of many types of stem cells for both slowing MS disease activity and for repairing damage to the nervous system. With the urgent need for more effective treatments for MS, particularly for those with more progressive forms of the disease, we believe that the potential of all types of cell therapies must be explored. The Society is currently supporting 15 research projects exploring various types of stem cells, including cells derived from bone marrow, fat and skin, and has supported 70 stem cell studies over the past 10 years.
To ensure that no opportunity is wasted in our mission to end MS, the National MS Society has supported research for more than a decade into the potential of different types of stem cells, including cells derived from bone marrow, fat and skin. See Glossary for definitions of terms used here.
For example, the Society is supporting:
• A Collaborative Center MS Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, focusing on the potential of stem cells for treating MS.
• The development of Athersys’ MultiStem adult stem cell platform for the treatment of MS, including treatment of progressive forms of the disease. MultiStem appears to stimulate production of molecules that regulate the immune system, protect damaged cells, and promote repair.
• Investigators in Milan, Italy who are doing preclinical testing of adult stem cells (iPSC) to stimulate repair of damaged myelin.
• Researchers at Johns Hopkins University who are studying the ability of different types of transplanted stem cells to modulate the immune system and promote repair in MS models.
• Investigators in Paris, France who are using myelin-making cells from outside the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nervous system) in attempts to repair MS damage in MS models.
• University of California, Davis researchers who are investigating the potential of using cells derived from adult skin to repair nerve-insulating myelin damaged during the course of MS.
• Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center who are studying myelin repair cells in action in mice for clues to stimulating nervous system repair in MS.
• Investigators at Yale University who are evaluating the transplantation of myelin-producing cells to repair damaged myelin in an animal model, for clues to the possible safety and benefit in people with MS.
• University of Utah researchers who are exploring how transplanted adult stem cells may stimulate repair of myelin in a mouse of MS.
• Cleveland Clinic investigators who are determining the best way to track mesenchymal stem cells in the body during clinical trials of this novel strategy for treating MS.
• Stanford University scientists who devising methods to use skin cells to produce myelinating cells in sufficient quantities for transplantation in MS models as a prelude to their possible use in people with MS.
At present, there are no approved stem cell therapies for MS. Larger, longer-term, controlled studies are needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of using stem cells to treat MS. When the results of these and subsequent clinical trials are available, it should be possible to determine what the optimal cells, delivery methods, safety and actual effectiveness of these current experimental therapies might be for different people with MS.
Read more about Stem Cell Therapy and MS