A clinic trial for a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) has shown promising results. The University of Cambridge reports that a team of scientists have shown that injecting stem cells directly into the brains of MS patients appears to have a protective effect. The treatment was shown to be safe and well-tolerated.
The study was led by researchers from University of Cambridge, University of Milan Bicocca and Hospital Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Italy). They found that delivering a special type of stem cell into the brain had the potential to reduce inflammation and protect nerves. The process has been tried with animals, but this is the first human study.
The neural stem cells from one donor were grown in a dish to ensure that they were identical and would give consistent and comparable results. The cells were delivered into the brains of 15 patients with secondary progressive MS. None of the participants had any serious side effects from the injection.
The patients were monitored with regular followup appointments for the next 12 months, and non experienced relapses or progression of their condition. This demonstrates that the stem cell treatment could be potentially used as an effective MS therapy.
Professor Stefano Pluchino from the University of Cambridge, who co-led the study, said: “We desperately need to develop new treatments for secondary progressive MS, and I am cautiously very excited about our findings, which are a step towards developing a cell therapy for treating MS.”
“We recognise that our study has limitations – it was only a small study and there may have been confounding effects from the immunosuppressant drugs, for example – but the fact that our treatment was safe and that its effects lasted over the 12 months of the trial means that we can proceed to the next stage of clinical trials.”
Caitlin Astbury, Research Communications Manager at the MS Society said: “This is a really exciting study which builds on previous research funded by us. These results show that special stem cells injected into the brain were safe and well-tolerated by people with secondary progressive MS.”
She added: “They also suggest this treatment approach might even stabilise disability progression. We’ve known for some time that this method has the potential to help protect the brain from progression in MS.”
“This was a very small, early-stage study and we need further clinical trials to find out if this treatment has a beneficial effect on the condition. But this is an encouraging step towards a new way of treating some people with MS.”
MS is a condition that causes the body’s own immune system to attack the nerve fibres around the brain and spinal cord. This causes chronic inflammation and problems with muscle coordination, vision, and cognition.
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