Multiple sclerosis is a chronic illness that affects the central nervous system. It occurs when immune cells mistakenly attack myelin, a thin protective layer that surrounds the nerves.

Once the layer of myelin is eaten away from a nerve, it becomes inflamed and scar tissue forms. This interferes with the nerve’s ability to transmit the electrical signals which normally travel between the brain and the rest of the body.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) causes a wide variety of symptoms including tremors, difficulty walking, muscle paralysis, fatigue, difficulty speaking, and fatigue. Although the condition is not fatal, it can contribute to the early death of sufferers by increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, bipolar, high blood pressure, and respiratory illness.

Fortunately, a cure for MS may be just around the corner. Researchers have been working on several new stem cell treatments which may be able to halt the symptoms of MS or cure it completely. This guide will share the most recent research relating to the use of stem cells for treating MS.

Multiple Sclerosis Facts

Using Stem Cells to Treat Multiple Sclerosis

Over the past decade, stem cells have become the primary focus of researchers looking for a treatment for multiple sclerosis. There have already been dozens of trials into the safety and efficacy of stem cells for treating MS which have returned very positive results. There are another 192 clinical trials currently underway, which will be published over the coming years.

A recent international study suggests that stem cells have the capacity to stop MS symptoms in their tracks. The study was conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom, United States, Brazil and Sweden between 2005 and 2016. It involved 105 subjects with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

The researchers gave 55 of the participants a chemotherapy to wipe out their immune system. This was followed by an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant, which rebuilt each patient’s ability to generate healthy immune cells.

This treatment effectively “reset” each participant’s immune system, so it no longer mistakenly attacked their nerves — halting the progression of their disease.

The other 50 patients received a traditional drug therapy. The researchers then compared the symptoms of all participants. They found that the disease progressed in 5% of the patients who had received a stem cell transplant, compared to 62% of patients who were receiving a conventional drug treatment.

Additionally, after a year, the researchers found that 98% of patients who received a stem cell transplant showed no remaining evidence of the disease. This is compared to 21% in the group which received medication.

A preliminary study which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that stem cells may even be able to reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis.

This trial involved 150 patients who were in the earlier stages of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. The researchers used a similar process to the study mentioned earlier, using chemotherapy to reduce immune system activity before giving patients a stem cell transplant.

The researchers followed 80 of the participants for two years after the procedure. They found that half of those participants saw their score on a standard MS disability scale fall by one point. In other words, the disability caused by their condition began to disappear.

They followed 36 of the participants for 4 years and found that two-thirds of those patients saw an improvement on the standard MS disability scale. An improvement of one point on the scale is described as a “meaningful” reduction in disability that could improve a patient’s life.

The authors of this study are going to conduct randomised studies to confirm the positive effect of their stem cell treatment.

Another study, published in 2015, suggests that placental cells may also be useful for treating multiple sclerosis. The authors of the study found that transplantation of placental stromal cells was safe and contributed to the repair of damage nerve tissues in patients with MS.

The researchers believe that the placental stromal cells are differentiating into myelin-making cells, or somehow improving the environment surrounding the nerves, allowing for natural repair processes to work more effectively. Further research is planned to determine precisely how placental cells are reversing the effects of MS.