Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive and degenerative disease that currently has no cure. It affects millions of people worldwide, many of whom are willing to undergo just about any treatment to find some relief. Hopefully that relief is a little bit closer now that the FDA has given the green light to a phase 2 trial for a new stem cell-based therapy for treating MS.
Multiple Sclerosis News Today reports that the study will be conducted by a company that has developed a proprietary treatment utilizing mesenchymal stem cells extracted from patients and grown in a lab setting. The company’s patented growth process encourages the stem cells to release certain kinds of chemicals so that, when injected into the patient, his or her body goes to work to replace the damaged cells associated with the disease.
Growing Customized MSCs
Company scientists are quick to point out that the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that form the basis of their treatment do not directly replace damaged cells following injection. Rather, they create optimal conditions that encourage the body to undertake that task on its own.
The process involves harvesting stem cells from the patient, then inducing those cells to secrete high levels of neurotrophic factors – molecules directly responsible for growing and differentiating neurons and helping them survive. As the Multiple Sclerosis News Today report puts it, the process turns the stem cells into “biological factories that… encourage neural stem cells to replace damaged cells.”
More about MSCs
Apex Biologix, a regenerative medicine supplier, explains that Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent stromal cells able to differentiate into a variety of different cell types. Let’s take a look at the operative terms for a better understanding.
A multipotent cell is one that has the capacity to differentiate into other cell types. The greater the potency, the more differentiation is possible within that cell type.
Stromal cells are cells that the body uses to generate connective tissue. The most common stromal cells in the human body are fibroblasts and pericytes.
What is important in this regard are the limitations of mesenchymal stem cells. While they are critical to the production of connective tissue, they are not involved in growing or maintaining other kinds of tissue. This is easily observed in the practice of using stem cells to treat osteoarthritis.
MSCs extracted from adipose fat tissue can be processed and injected in order to manage osteoarthritis pain and promote healing. In terms of the latter, healing is promoted by encouraging the body to begin re-growing the lost or damaged tissue related to osteoarthritis.
Those same cells would be useless for treatments attempting to grow something other than connective tissue. That’s why it’s dangerous to push stem cell therapy as a miracle cure for everything from cancer to Parkinson’s disease. Mesenchymal stem cells are limited in what they can do.
Hope for MS Patients
Getting back to the phase 2 trial this post began with, it is giving hope to MS patients that a cure may one day be found. If the trial proves successful, it could pave the way for an approved clinical treatment that could offer relief to millions of patients.
The company behind the trial has to prove that both science and procedure can work together to put a halt to the progressive nature of MS. That’s a tall order. But the company has already patented their stem cell growth process, so they appear to be on the right track. Let’s hope their phase 2 trial succeeds in demonstrating that their innovative stem cell therapy does actually work.