There is exciting progress being made through innovative research related to the potential of many types of stem cells for slowing MS disease activity and for repairing damage to the nervous system. At present, there are no approved stem cell therapies for MS. Stem cell therapy is in the experimental stage, and it’s important for people to have the best available information to understand this exciting area of research and make decisions related to this complex issue.
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.
Outside of clinical trials, there are stem cell therapy clinics in the U.S. and around the world that claim to have treated people with MS and people with many other disorders with stem cells. However, none have provided medical evidence that their treatments work or are safe.
Many experts in the MS community have expressed concern that:
• In many countries these stem cell clinics are not held to strict sanitary guidelines and are allowed to operate without oversight over the safety of their procedures.
• The sources of the stem cells they use are not always made clear, or the procedures they use to derive them or ensure they are free from infectious agents.
• Safety of the procedure itself, and its long-term consequences, is a major issue. Areas of concern include the question of whether the cells could cause the severe immune attack known as graft-versus-host disease, or grow uncontrollably once inside the body and cause tumors or other serious problems. Another concern relates to whether follow-up care would be available if complications or other issues arise after a person gets home.
• There is often no plan for how the safety, side effects and effectiveness of this experimental procedure will be measured and monitored over time.
Anyone who is considering stem cell therapy should evaluate carefully the potential adverse events that will be outlined in the consent form usually provided before medical procedures are performed.
Read more about Stem Cell Therapy and MS
Read a June 2016 paper from Cell Stem Cell: Selling Stem Cells in the USA: Assessing the Direct-to-Consumer Industry and a Scientific American news story about this article: Unproven Stem Cell Clinics Proliferate in the U.S.
Read blogs about stem cells and MS
Read more about stem cells from the International Society for Stem Cell Research