All About Multiple Sclerosis
More MS news articles for January 2003

Stem cell breakthrough for MS

Tuesday, January  21, 2003 12:45
The World Today

JOHN HIGHFIELD: And there's some heartening news before we leave you today for sufferers of multiple sclerosis, the debilitating disease. They may soon be able to use adult stem cell research to help lessen the impact of the disease on people.

Scientists at Sydney's St Vincent's hospital have, for the first time, removed adult stem cells with MS damage, cultured them, repaired them, and then intravenously injected them back into a host to help heal the damage.

The breakthrough was made during tests on the brains of mice.

Director of Neurology at St Vincent's Hospital Research, Professor Bruce Brew has been telling Brigid Glanville, MS sufferers could see a remarkable difference.

BRUCE BREW: Again looking into the future there would be reason to think that it should help with a number of deficits related to white matter disease such as limb weakness, facial weakness, sensory disturbance, visual disturbance.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: And yet it, it won't obviously, you're injecting it into patients who have already got MS ...


BRIGID GLANVILLE: Will, long term, would it be the sort of things that you can inject to patients who might be in a high percentage of getting MS? Can you tell that sort of thing?

BRUCE BREW: In terms of propalatic [phonetic] treatment, I think that's a far-fetched possibility. But it remains a possibility.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: What about in terms of how could this treatment work on other diseases and illnesses?

BRUCE BREW: In other diseases such as encephalitis where there may be white matter damage leading to a variety of deficits, you could certainly envisage it's an area where the patients would have their own stem cells isolated, injected and their cells would home into the area of damage and lead to repair of that damage.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Has there ever been this sort of research, this such, this, you know, breakthrough for MS before?

BRUCE BREW: This, there have been a number of breakthroughs and developments in regard to stem cells. The field is rapidly advancing. It's applicability to MS and, is perhaps not been the focus of stem cell research until recently.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Why is it, why has there been this study for MS?

BRUCE BREW: Why has there been this study?


BRUCE BREW: Because we're interested in the possibility of differentiating the cells, system cells, into this white matter-forming cells, when other people had not been able to.

People had been use the stem cells and differentiate them into other brain-forming, other brain, resident brain cells, but not into the oligodendrocyte. So from our point of view, that was a challenge. And so we developed a number of collaborations to address that.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: And how reliable is it using mice when MS is an auto-immune disease?

BRUCE BREW: It's only a, it's only a model and you have to start somewhere. It's a reasonable model of white matter damage that's in, that occurs in multiple sclerosis, not, absolutely not perfect, but certainly helpful.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: When do you think patients that have got MS will be able to use this technology?

BRUCE BREW: Not for several years at least, unfortunately.

JOHN HIGHFIELD: Professor Bruce Brew, director of neurology at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, with Brigid Glanville. Some good news of course for MS people even if they do have to wait a few years from it, before it gets from mice into people.

And that's our program for this Tuesday.

©2003 ABC