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Investigators in Italy Report Stem Cell Injections Safe and Showed Hints of Benefit in Progressive MS

January 12, 2023

Researchers at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy published results from a small clinical trial of neural stem cells injected a single time into the spinal fluid of 12 people with secondary progressive MS or primary progressive MS. They were followed over 2 years. The procedure was found to be safe, which was the primary outcome studied. Other outcomes suggested that those who received the highest dose of cells showed less brain shrinkage, as well as signs of potentially beneficial molecules in their spinal fluid 3 months after the cells were injected.
  • Background: There are few therapies that are effective for treating progressive forms of multiple sclerosis, and none that have shown the ability to restore lost tissues from the brain and spinal cord. Studies in lab animals have suggested that nerve stem cells may create a beneficial environment in the brain that is protective and may stimulate the brain’s repair functions.
  • This Study: The neural stem cells were derived and expanded from a single fetus under approved guidelines.
  • Four different doses of cells were tested, given by single injection into participants’ spinal column. Participants also received drugs to reduce immune reactions and prevent rejection of the cells.
  • Results: There were no serious adverse events reported. Half of the participants developed new brain lesions seen on MRI within the two years after the stem cell injections.
  • Meaning: The researchers state that although this study was not controlled and the results are preliminary, this study provides rationale for further testing in a larger group of people. 
Read more about stem cells in MS
Neural stem cell transplantation in patients with progressive multiple sclerosis: an open-label, phase 1 study,” by Angela Genchi, Elena Brambilla, Francesca Sangalli and others and senior author Gianvito Martino, was published online on January 9, 2023 in Nature Medicine.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.

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