UK scientists working on the launch of several international trials to investigate the safety and effectiveness of stem cells in slowing or reversing brain and spinal cord damage in people with multiple scleroris (MS) have received £1 million in funds from the MS Society, and the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKCSF).

The MS Society said that the funding is for three UK studies within the international trials. One of these will investigate the use of autologous mesenchymal stem cells as a form of immunotherapy to prevent and potentially reverse neurological deterioration in relapse-remitting MS. The trial, a collaborative phase II study, will involve 150 to 200 MS patients from across the world, including UK, Italy, the US, and Canada.

In the UK, the trial will be sited in London and Edinburgh, with Paolo Muraro, MD, from Imperial College London as study leader. Muraro and colleagues will collect bone marrow stem cells from 13 MS patients, grow them in the lab, then re-inject them back into the same patients, such that each patient receives a large boost of his or her own stem cells.

The hope is that the stem cells will travel to the brain and start to repair the damage caused by MS, including that currently in progress in "active lesions". Another project, led by professor David Baker of Queen Mary University of London, will evaluate the use of transplanting neural stem cells as a therapy for optic neuritis, a symptom of MS that impairs sight because the optic nerve in the eye becomes inflamed.

And in a third project, study leader professor Cris Constantinescu of Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) Nottingham, and colleagues, will be finding out more about mesenchymal stem cells, which influence the immune system and have potential to protect and repair brain cells and nerves. They will be using ultra-high field imaging and looking in particular at mesenchymal stem cells’ phenotypic characteristics and immune interactions.

[Source: Medical News Today]