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Can stem cells provide a cure to multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Dr. Charles R. Smith, MD
Neurologist

In this video, I will explain how current research on multiple sclerosis isn't focused on a cure. Instead, research emphasizes developing new treatments to control the progression of MS and repair nerve damage.

Dr. Louis Rosner
Neurologist

Perhaps the most promise for a "cure" points to stem-cell research. The scientists who called the last century "the century of the gene"—beginning with the discovery of DNA and ending with full mapping of the human genome—now say we are in the "century of the cell and its self-renewal." And that is very promising for people not only with multiple sclerosis (MS), but with Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, ALS, traumatic spinal cord injury, Purkinje cell degeneration, Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, heart disease, and vision and hearing loss. These, and so many other diseases, we now know, are not the result of a simple microbe or even an individual genetic alteration, but rather the loss of very specific cells.

If you add all the diseases together, we're talking about tens of millions of individuals who have health care needs largely unmet by current medical strategies. This is expected to have a tremendous impact not only on quality of life, but health care costs and overall productivity of our economy. And that's why there's so much incentive to see if the early promise of stem-cell research can be fulfilled.

The hope is that stem cells might be transplanted to target specific cells. In heart disease, stem cells might help grow new heart muscle. In diabetes, stem cells might be transplanted to replace the ones which produce insulin. In the case of MS, the cell that is lost is the oligodendrocyte which helps make myelin. In MS, stem-cell research will try to promote the growth of new myelin, repair damaged cells, or modify the immune system to replace cells that attack myelin. Some research might lead to the development of drugs that could recruit a person's own stem cells to a specific area in the body that needs repair.

Multiple Sclerosis

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Multiple Sclerosis

Too often, multiple sclerosis is thought of only as "the crippler of young adults." But in fact, 75 percent of all people with MS will never need a wheelchair. In Multiple Sclerosis, Dr. Louis J....

Research is still being done on this subject. Damage from multiple sclerosis (MS) stimulates the development of stem cells that migrate to the site of the damage and can become healthy myelin-producing cells, thereby restoring the myelin and returning the nerves to their original state. However, the lesions created by MS produce chemical signals that prevent these stem cells from reaching the bare axons, maturing into oligodendrocytes, and repairing the myelin.

The MRF scientific team, a California-based non-profit medical research foundation focused on accelerating the discovery of the first myelin repair therapies for MS, has demonstrated that it is possible to neutralize these signals to allow the stem cells to migrate directly to the site of the damage.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.