Stem cells have the potential to repair myelin in nerve cells and may be used in the future to generate new nerve cells. While stem cells do not currently cure multiple sclerosis (MS), they could slow down, halt, or even reverse the progression of the disease.
MS is an autoimmune disease where the person’s immune system begins to attack and destroy the myelin sheath. When neurons demyelinate, they no longer transmit signals correctly and start to die, resulting in MS symptoms.
The brain’s stem cells naturally tend to repair and replenish damaged myelin, but the immune system of MS patients attacks it again.
Currently, there are no cellular replacement therapies for MS, but promising studies are using stem cells to “reboot” the patient’s immune system.
Researchers aim to use stem cells to study MS and find ways to prevent or repair myelin damage.
Some studies propose using chemotherapy to destroy the person’s immune system and, in a second phase, use stem cells to create a new immune system that does not attack myelin.
Clinical trials registered in the US ICH GCP Clinical Trials Registry have yielded positive results, and it is now available as a treatment for MS patients who do not respond to the best disease-modifying treatments.
Researchers are investigating treatments and drugs that harness or even enhance the natural ability of stem cells to repair myelin.
They are also attempting to develop stem cell treatments to replace nerves destroyed by various neurological diseases, including MS.
Stem Cells for Multiple Sclerosis
What are the challenges? Autoimmune diseases attack the individual’s cells, making them challenging to treat.
Total immune system blockade is not a viable treatment option as it would leave the patient vulnerable to potential infections.
Developing treatments for MS faces another difficulty: the immune system’s attack on the myelin sheath has numerous possible causes. In conclusion, the disease trigger can vary greatly among patients.
Scientists still do not fully understand the process by which the nervous system creates the myelin sheath, which makes it difficult to develop treatments for its repair.
Stem Cell Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis
Stem cells are part of the body’s repair system, generating new cells to replace damaged or dead ones. There are different types of stem cells, and scientists are investigating various ways to use them for MS therapies:
First, preventing damage: Certain types of stem cells can be used to “reset” the immune system (known as immunomodulation). The goal is to prevent the immune system from attacking nerve cells or reduce the extent of damage.
Second, repairing damage: Stem cells could help repair damaged myelin sheaths, and remyelination nerves, and restore their function. This could prevent the degeneration of nerves themselves. In the future, stem cells may enable the growth of lost nerves, although this has not been achieved yet.
Development of new medicines: Stem cells can be used to grow nerve cells in the laboratory. These cells can be utilized to study the workings of MS and test new drugs.
These different interventions provide various advantages that doctors can utilize for treating different types or stages of MS.
Finally, I invite you to learn more about the fascinating world of stem cells by reading our article, titled “What Are Stem Cells?“