Adult mesenchymal stem cells are being tested in clinical trials in MS. A person’s own mesenchymal stem cells are isolated from the bone marrow or blood stream and multiplied in the lab, and then re-introduced in greater numbers into their body. Alternatively, the cells are sometimes treated prior to transfer to potentially enhance their ability to suppress nervous system-damaging immune responses and/or promote myelin repair.
Only when the results of clinical trials are available will it be possible to determine what the optimal cells, delivery methods, safety and actual effectiveness of this experimental approach might be for people with MS.
Mesenchymal stem cells are being tested in several clinical trials including:
• Results were published in 2023
by an international team that tested a novel strategy to transplant neural stem cells directly into the brains of 15 people with secondary progressive
multiple sclerosis. No serious adverse events were reported, and participants’ physical and cognitive functions remained stable for one year afterward. Further study is necessary to determine the potential of this strategy for stopping MS progression and restoring function in people with MS.
• Results were presented
in 2023 by Dr. Saud Sadiq (The Tisch MS Research Center of New York) from a phase 2 clinical trial involving 54 people with progressive MS, funded in part by the National MS Society. The study used participants’ own bone marrow stem cells, which were removed and expanded in the laboratory and developed into specific cells called Mesenchymal Stem Cells-Neural Progenitors. They were then infused into the spinal fluid every two months for one year. The primary purpose of the trial was to see improvement in physical mobility after the first year, which was not achieved. The stem cell treatments were well tolerated. Other outcomes may point to potential benefits of this treatment, such as improved walking, especially in those with more mobility challenges. Further study is needed to determine if this form of stem cell therapy is safe and beneficial as a treatment for progressive MS.
• Results were published
in 2022 from A Phase 1 trial allogenic human neural stem cells in secondary progressive MS in Italy and Switzerland. The trial tested four different dosages injected into the brain. Treatment was feasible, tolerated and safe and participants remained clinically stable during the 12-month follow-up. No serious adverse events occured related to the treatment.
• Results were reported
in 2021 from a phase 2 open-label study of repeated intrathecal administration of NurOwn®
(Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells Secreting Neurotrophic Factors, MSC-NTF) at Cleveland Clinic and Stanford University in 18 people with progressive MS. The study is being sponsored by BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics Inc. The cells were derived from individuals’ own bone marrow (mesenchymal) stem cells, which were treated in the laboratory to encourage them to secrete neuroprotective factors. The participants then received three separate cell injections into the spinal canal every two months. The treatment appeared to be safe, and there also appeared to be some improvements in cognition, vision, mobility, and other functions by comparing participants with those involved in other studies. Read the ECTRIMS abstract
• Results were published
in 2021 from a Hadassah University Hospital phase 2 clinical trial to establish the optimal way to administer mesenchymal stem cells in active, progressive MS. Participants are people with progressive MS with moderate to more severe disability. They administered the cells into the vein or the spinal fluid and then monitoring patients with various measures to try to detect a benefit and to find the best route for administering these cells. Most participants stabilized, and some showed improvement. Read more
• Results were published
in 2021 from the international MESEMS trial, a phase 2 clinical trial conducted at 15 sites in 9 countries, testing the ability of mesenchymal stem cells to reduce new inflammation seen on MRI brain scans of people with relapsing MS, 24 weeks after one dose of participants’ own cells were infused into their veins. The procedure was found to be safe, but it did not reduce the risk of active brain lesions, which was the main endpoint established for this trial. Read more
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 clinics.
Learn about ongoing MSC trials on clinicaltrials.gov