Scientists at the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute reportedly generated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells lines from skin samples of patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) and developed a protocol to induce the stem cells into becoming oligodendrocytes. According to a news release issued by the New York Stem Cell Foundation, while existing protocols for producing oligodendrocytes have taken almost a year to produce, the current study cut this time in half, making the ability for the cells to be used in research more feasible.

The release notes that stem cell lines and oligodendrocytes allow researchers to “turn back the clock” and observe how MS develops and progresses, potentially spotlighting the onset of the disease at a cellular level long before any symptoms are displayed. The researchers state that the improved protocol for deriving oligodendrocyte cells will also offer a platform for disease modeling, drug screening, and for replacing the damaged cells in the brain with healthy cells generated using this method.

Susan L. Solomon, NYSCF chief executive officer, explains “We are so close to finding new treatments and even cures for MS. The enhanced ability to derive the cells implicated in the disease will undoubtedly accelerate research for MS and many other diseases.”

Valentina Fossati, PhD, NYSCF, Helmsley Investigator and the paper’s senior author, notes that researchers believe the protocol will assist the MS field and the larger scientific community in understanding human oligodendrocyte biology and the process of myelination.

“This is the first step towards very exciting studies: the ability to generate human oligodendrocytes in large amounts will serve as an unprecedented tool for developing remyelinating strategies and the study of patient-specific cells may shed light on intrinsic pathogenic mechanisms that lead to progressive MS,” Fossati says.

The release adds that during the study, scientists not only improved the protocol for making the myelin-forming cells, they demonstrated that the oligodendryocytes derived from the skin of primary progressive patients are functional, and therefore able to form their own myelin when integrated into a mouse model.

The study, the release reports, helps pave the way for critical new avenues of research to study MS and other diseases. Since oligodendrocytes are implicated in a range of disorders, the research allows NYSCF and other scientists the ability to study all demyelinating and central nervous system disorders.

“…The new work from the NYSCF Research Institute will help to improve our understanding of these important cells. In addition, being able to generate large numbers of patient-specific oligodendrocytes will support both cell transplantation therapeutics for demyelinating diseases and the identification of new classes of drugs to treat such disorders,” points out Lee Rubin, PhD, NYSCF scientific advisor and director of Translational Medicine at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

Source: New York Stem Cell Foundation