November 24, 2003
The human body naturally heals some nerve tissue in the brain and spinal cord that is damaged by MS. But not enough to keep up with the disease. Since MS researchers learned this, teams of scientists have been looking for ways to make this healing more effective.
Research has shown that adult brains contain stem cells that, given the right signals, might be stimulated to produce viable new tissue.
In a groundbreaking study published in the April 17 issue of Nature, Stefano Pluchino, MD, and colleagues at San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy, injected adult mouse neural stem cells into the blood or brain cavities of mice with an MS-like disease. The donor cells were "tagged" so that the researchers were able to follow their movements. The researchers found that:
* the transplanted cells migrated to multiple areas of tissue damage in the brain and matured into myelin-forming cells that deposited myelin around nerve fibers;
* mice regained physical function previously lost to the MS-like disease; and
* both methods-injecting cells into the bloodstream or into brain cavities, a more invasive method-worked.
There are major differences between mice and humans. Further studies
are needed: first, to confirm the results of the published study in lab
animals, and then to address issues that will inevitably come up when the
scientists begin similar studies in people with MS.
Copyright © 2003, Inside MS