Although far too early to know if the treatment will be effective on humans, researchers have been able to restore movement to mice disabled by a multiple sclerosis (MS)-like condition by using human stem cell transplants. The recovery was quick, long-lasting, and present even though the stem cells themselves had been rejected by the mice.
According to the study's authors, mice disabled by a virus that mimics MS began walking 10 to 14 days after receiving spinal injections of human neural stem cells, and continued to walk and engage in other movements after 6 months. The findings were e-published ahead of print on May 15 in Stem Cell Reports (.pdf).
Of particular importance, authors write, is the fact that the actual stem cells were quickly rejected by the mice. They believe that stem cells and T cells acted as triggers to generate myelin sheaths and reduce inflammation by the mouse body itself. "These reports are consistent with growing evidence that transplanted stem cells rarely differentiate into cells of neural lineage, and their efficacy often appears to be through delivery of trophic factors … or by modulating inflammation," they write.
The researchers theorize that the key to the process may be linked to the presence of regulatory T cells (tregs) in the stem cells. Stem cells that had been stripped of tregs did not produce the same effects in the mice.
"Multiple sclerosis … is … an attractive target for cell therapy because of the lack of long-term therapeutic benefit from current treatment," the authors write. "There is growing evidence that long-term survival of transplanted cells is not required for beneficial effects."
Research-related stories featured in News Now are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.
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