Modifying Bone Marrow Cells Help Treat Multiple Sclerosis

Another new means of possibly treating multiple sclerosis has been found with the use of modified bone marrow cells. Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany have been able to genetically engineer bone marrow cells to treat multiple sclerosis by reducing inflammation brought by the disease as well as clearing tissue debris. This treatment may also be used to deliver drugs more effectively into the central nervous system.

A team of scientists from the University of Bonn have been able to modify myeloid precursor cells to express a protein known as TREM2 (triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-2) which is made by a cell from the central nervous system. The modified bone marrow cells were then injected into the veins of mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis or EAE, the animal model for multiple sclerosis.

When injected into the affected mice, the scientists found out that the modified TREM2 expressing myeloid precursor cells migrated into the spinal cord of the animals showing EAE symptoms at their peak. The modified cells also helped reduce EAE symptoms and nerve damage in the affected mice. The treatment also helped halt further myelin loss and cleared up cell debris and damaged myelin fragments. What makes it even more promising is that the modified cells only migrated into the spinal cord of mice with EAE. The said migration was not exhibited in healthy mice injected with the same modified myeloid precursor cells.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease where the immune system itself attacks and destroys the myelin around nerve fibers in the central nervous system. Myelin acts as the insulation around these nerves and damage to them may have an effect on how nerve signals are being transmitted. The disrupted nerve signals causes weakness or paralysis on the limbs. Multiple sclerosis may even affect balance and coordination aside from displaying other physically debilitating symptoms.

One of the major challenges in the treatment of multiple sclerosis is the effective delivery of drugs into the central nervous system, most especially, to the lesion site. The blood-brain barrier can restrict the delivery of drugs into the central nervous system when injected intravenously. The problem can further be worsened by the short half-life of certain therapeutic agents used in the treatment of MS.

One way of resolving this problem is by making use of an organ-targeted protein delivery system as was used in the modified TREM2 expressing myeloid precursor cells that was injected on an animal model to treat EAE. The modified bone marrow cells were able to penetrate into the spinal cord of mice affected with EAE and be treated more effectively. This approach has paved the way for developing an effective means of treating multiple sclerosis in humans in the near future.


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