British scientists are preparing to start a series of major international trials to investigate the safety and effectiveness of stem cells in order to help people with Multiple Sclerosis.
The funding was just approved to see how the use of stem cells can slow or stopping or reverse brain and spinal cord damage in people suffering from MS.
The study received about $1.6 million from the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the United Kingdom’s Stem Cell Foundation (or UKCSF). Some reports say that scientists think this unique collaboration will reduce the time limits in finding out if stem cells are safe treatments.
On Friday, July 29, the MS Society issued a statement explaining the funding for three British studies in the international trials.
The studies are explained as such:
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 D.r Paolo Muraro 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, so we know more about these types of cells for future trials.
The studies could also help cancer research. The importance of stem cell studies in MS research can be fully verified with the studies.
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the MS Society, stated:
“Stem cells hold tremendous potential as a future treatment option for people with MS. We are delighted to be funding this world leading research which shows the power of an international research collaboration and joint working between charities.”
Lil Shortland, Chief Operating Officer of the UKSCF, said thanks to the joint effort with MS Society, it has been possible to raise the vital funding these new projects need more quickly:
“MS is such a debilitating condition that devastates the lives of so many people, particularly in the UK. We hope these projects will lead ultimately to the development of successful new treatments for multiple sclerosis within the next three to five years,” she added.