Mice With MS Walk Again After Stem Cell Tx
Mice severely disabled by a condition similar to multiple sclerosis (MS) could walk less than two weeks following treatment with human stem cells. The study, which uncovers new avenues for treating MS, was don e at the University of Utah and published online on May 15th 2014, in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
The scientists we surprised and encouraged by their finding. When they transplanted human stem cells into MS mice, they expected no benefit from the treatment. They thought the cells would be rejected, much like rejection of an organ transplant. Instead, the experiment yielded spectacular results.
A release from the university quotes co-senior author, Tom Lane, Ph.D., a professor of pathology at the University of Utah, who began the study at the University of California, Irvine, as saying, “My postdoctoral fellow Dr. Lu Chen came to me and said, ‘The mice are walking.’ I didn’t believe her.”
Within a short period of time, 10 to 14 days, the mice could walk and run. Six months later, they showed no signs of slowing down.
“This result opens up a whole new area of research for us to figure out why it worked,” said co-senior author Jeanne Loring, Ph.D., director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
More than 2.3 million people worldwide have MS, a disease in which the immune system attacks myelin, an insulation layer surrounding nerve fibers. The resulting damage inhibits transmission of nerve impulses, producing a wide array of symptoms including difficulty walking, impaired vision, fatigue and pain.
Current FDA-approved medications slow early forms of the disease by dampening attacks by the immune system. In recent years, scientists have turned their attention to searching for ways to halt or reverse MS. Such a discovery could help patients with latter, or progressive, stages of the disease, for whom there are no treatments.
Results from the study demonstrate the mice experience at least a partial reversal of symptoms. Immune attacks are blunted, and the damaged myelin is repaired, explaining their dramatic recovery.
“The way we made the neural stem cells turns out to be important,” said Loring, describing the reason behind the novel outcome.
Prior to transplantation, Loring’s graduate student and co-first author on the paper, Ronald Coleman, followed his intuition and grew the cells so they were less crowded on the Petri dish than usual. The change in protocol yielded a human neural stem cell type that turned out to be extremely potent. The experiments have since been successfully repeated with cells produced under the same conditions, but by different laboratories.