Researchers Find New Stem Cell Isolation Method For MS Treatment

MS treatment using stem cells may become a very promising prospect in the very near future. This prospect may even be getting closer and closer as researchers are indicating that human clinical trials using stem cells to treat MS may not be that afar off. Researchers from the University of Buffalo and the University of Rochester have found a more precise way of isolating stem cells in the brain that can be used to make myelin.

This discovery may have gotten over a barrier that has made the use of stem cells quite difficult in treating demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Myelin is an important fatty protein that surrounds neurons and acts as an insulating material to allow the cells to send and receive electrical signals effectively. Damage to myelin can result in affected signal transmission that can lead to the body experiencing a number of symptoms which range from minor ones to the more serious and debilitating kind.

According to Fraser Sim, PhD., assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and first author of the study, it has been quite difficult to separate the right progenitor cells that will develop into the cells that will turn into myelin. “Characterizing and isolating the exact cells to use in stem cell therapy is one key to ultimately having success. You need to have the right cells in hand before you can even think about getting to a clinical trial to treat people. This is a significant step,” Sim further added.

Sim, along with Crystal McClain, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, conducted an extensive analysis on gene activity in the different types of stem cells. Their study eventually determined that stem cells known to carry a protein known as CD140a on their surface are most likely to become oligodendrocytes, the type of brain cells that eventually develop into myelin.

To further test their discovery, the researchers injected the cells into the brains of mice born without the ability to produce myelin. During the course of 12 weeks, the cells were found to have transformed into oligodendrocytes and had coated more than 40 percent of the brain’s neurons with myelin.

A possible treatment for diseases like MS would be to inject these stem cells into the brains of patients in order to create myelin. “Another approach might involve using certain medications to turn on these cells already present in the brains of patients and thereby create new myelin,” says Sim. “The use of the new techniques described in this work will permit us to better understand how human cells behave in the brain and help us predict which medications may be successful in the treatment of myelin loss,” he further added.

The research and its findings are published in the October issue of the online journal Nature Biotechnology.

Source: Medical News Today

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