Stem Cells and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada believes that there
is evidence of important benefits to people with MS through
stem cell research.
At the moment, funds raised by the MS Society of Canada and
related MS Scientific Research Foundation are supporting two
projects in which scientists are currently investigating the
following possible advances:
Turning the body’s
own stem cells into myelin producing cells
Remyelination in Multiple Sclerosis - Enhancing Intrinsic Repair
$2.25 million over three years from the Multiple Sclerosis
Scientific Foundation – Approved April 2005
Jack Antel, MD, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University
Samuel Weiss, PhD, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of
Moses Rodriguez, MD, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
Phase II of this large, collaborative research project is
seeking ways to find out if there are cells in the body’s
own central nervous system that can be transformed into a cellular
repair team to mend damage to myelin caused by multiple sclerosis.
The cells the researchers are targeting are called stem cell
progenitor cells. They are cells within the body that have yet to become fully specialized, so the
goal with this project is to stimulate them to become oligodendrocytes,
the cells that make myelin.
Drs. Antel, Weiss and Rodriguez have chosen to use the body’s
own stem cell progenitors from the adult central nervous system.
This avoids invasive surgical procedures and should overcome
the limitations in the numbers of cells available for transplantation
and the problem of directing the cells to the sites of injury.
This multi-disciplinary team of neurologists and basic scientists
believe the approach of using the body’s own cells to
repair myelin damage is particularly applicable in a disease
which injury can occur in any part of the central nervous system.
The research is targeting stem cell progenitors that have already
been located within the body and uses various proteins and
hormones to entice them to the damaged parts of the brain and
spinal cord that need remyelination.
The researchers have also pioneered new ways of using magnetic
resonance imaging to non-invasively measure the production
of new myelin and the rate of recovery from MS attacks. The
ability to generate myelin and measure whether the new myelin
is wrapping effectively around nerve fibres is key to reducing
disability caused by MS. Essentially, the research teams at
the three centres are looking for an “on” switch
that can kick-start the remyelination process. If successful,
they hope to identify specific strategies for
myelin repair and turn their findings into clinical trials
to determine whether remyelination will lead to an actual decrease
in disability in people with MS.
For more information, please see the original medical update
Re-growing the immune system from spinal cord stem cells
Targeting Multiple Sclerosis as an Autoimmune Disease with
Intensive Immunoablative Therapy and Immunological Reconstitution – A
Potential Curative Therapy for Patients with Predicted Poor
$4 million over six years from the Multiple Sclerosis Scientific
Research Foundation –
Approved August 2000
Harold Atkins, MD, Bone Marrow Transplantation Program, Ottawa
Hospital – General Campus
Mark Freedman, MD, MS Research Clinic, Ottawa Hospital – General
The Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation is funding
a multi-centre project to determine whether transplanting bone
marrow stem cells in people with MS can stop the disease. Led
by Dr. Mark Freedman (MS neurologist) and Dr. Harold Atkins
(bone marrow transplant physician), both at the University
of Ottawa, the study will involve 36 people with rapidly progressing
multiple sclerosis who are likely to become severely disabled.
Twenty-four of the participants will receive bone marrow transplantation
while12 other people with the same kind of MS but who do not
wish to have the procedure will be the control group. Recruitment
began in October 2000. Treatment centres for the study are
located in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.
Bone marrow transplantation is used frequently to treat leukemia.
In a very small number of people who have both MS and leukemia,
MS symptoms improved following the bone marrow stem cell transplant.
This project should allow investigators to determine if bone
marrow transplantation is an effective treatment in a group
of closely matched people with multiple sclerosis. Equally
important, should the procedure not fully stop the disease
process, is gaining information about what triggers are present
and what changes to the immune system occur at the beginning of disease activity. The
researchers are monitoring closely for signs of disease activity
in the participants at all stages of the procedure from enrolment
to the end of the study. Monitoring will include complex immune
system tests and tracking of certain immune-related genetic
changes in the hope of unveiling particular genes that might
contribute to genetic susceptibility.
For more information, please see the most recent medical update