Growth Factor In Stem Cells May Spur MS Recovery

Researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has discovered that a certain compound that is found in stem cells that promotes growth also seems to trigger the restoration of nerves and their functions in mice models of MS. The findings of the study were published on the online edition of Nature Neuroscience on May 20.

During the course of the study, animals that were injected with the hepatocyte growth factor experienced a decline in inflammation while there was an increase in neural cell growth.  What is most important is that the myelin sheath, the insulating material that protects the nerves and their ability to send and receive information, also experienced a significant level of regrowth, causing them cover the lesions as a result of MS.

According to Robert H. Miller, Professor of neurosciences at the School of Medicine and vice president for research at Case Western Reserve University, “The importance of this work is we think we’ve identified the driver of the recovery.”

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system begins to attack myelin, causing damage and lead to exposed intricate wiring of the nerves. As the damage worsen, the ability of the nerves to send and receive signals is affected, causing a number of physical symptoms such as loss of balance and coordination as well as other cognitive abilities and functions. Over time, these losses become permanent.

Miller and colleagues reported in 2009 that animal MS models injected with human mesenchymal stem cells were able to recover from the damage caused by the disease. The researchers wanted to conduct a clinical trial based on the results of this work where MS patients will be injected with their own stem cells.

In the recent study, the researchers wanted to determine whether it is the stem cells or something else that the cells are producing that stimulates the recovery seen. The researchers injected mice with a medium from where mesenchymal stem cells grew which were taken from bone marrow. All of the 11 mice injected with an animal version of MS showed a significant reduction of physical symptoms associated with the disease. Results of the said study and other previous research indicate that hepatocyte growth factor secreted by the stem cells may be a possible reason for the improvement seen.

The researchers then went on to inject the rodents with 50 to 100 nanograms of growth factor every other day for a period of five days. The results showed that the level of signaling molecules that promotes inflammation decreased while the level of signaling molecules countering inflammation increased. In addition, neural cells grew and nerves that were stripped out of their myelin were rewrapped with the insulating material. Mice that were given 100-nanogram injections showed a lightly better recovery.

The researchers are planning further studies to determine if they can screen out the mesenchymal stem cells that produce higher amounts of hepatocyte growth factor for a more effective cell therapy treatment.

Source: Medical Xpress

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