The National MS Society is the largest private funder of MS research in the world and is recognized as a global leader in driving breakthroughs to a cure. The Society stimulates studies worldwide, leverages opportunities, fosters collaboration among foremost experts, and shapes the research landscape to address the urgent needs of people with MS.
The complexity of MS necessitates a comprehensive approach to address our most pressing research priorities and to accelerate research breakthroughs. Our current multi-year commitments total over $60 million to drive solutions that will assist every single person with MS to live their best lives. 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.
Repairing myelin, the coating that surrounds and protects axons (nerve wires) and which is damaged by MS, may represent the best strategy for protecting axons from injury and improving function for people with MS. Thanks in part to our pioneering funding, potential cell therapies and myelin repair strategies are now approaching or already in clinical trials.
There is exciting progress being made through innovative research related to the potential of many types of stem cells both for slowing MS disease activity and for repairing damage to the nervous system. In addition to cell therapy, finding ways to stimulate the body’s own stem cells inside the brain is another approach being actively investigated. Today the idea of nervous system repair holds significant promise as a strategy to restore the function that MS has taken from people; and reducing or stopping MS progression.
We are at a pivotal moment in time where breakthrough solutions can change the world for everyone with MS. Among the approaches being taken are:
- Clinical trials of individuals’ own blood or bone marrow stem cells to “reboot” the immune system to slow or halt MS activity.
- Research to slow disease activity and repair nervous system damage directly with stem cells that may replace the cells that make myelin.
- Research and clinical trials to stimulate the natural capacity of the brain to repair itself.
This remarkable progress is due in large part to the National MS Society’s comprehensive efforts and multi-million dollar research investments. 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 and other ways to help restore function must be explored.
The Society is supporting research projects exploring various types of stem cells, including cells derived from bone marrow, fat and skin, and has supported 68 stem cell studies over the past 10 years. In addition, a substantial portion of the Society’s research portfolio focuses on different approaches to protecting and repairing the nervous system.