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Stem cell trial for MS patients begins

01 August 2011

By Dr Caroline Hirst

Appeared in BioNews 618

UK scientists are launching a global clinical trial to test the potential and safety of stem cells to treat multiple sclerosis (MS).

The phase two human clinical trial will begin in six months and will involve up to 150 MS patients worldwide. Researchers will harvest stem cells from participants' bone marrow; the cells will be grown in the laboratory before being re-injected into their blood stream. The hope is the stem cells will safely target, stop, or even reverse the damage caused by MS.

MS is the most common, neurological condition in young adults, affecting 100,000 people in the UK. There are drugs available to alleviate the systems of MS, but currently no cure.

Dr Doug Brown from the UK's MS Society said: 'Experiments have confirmed that these stem cells hold that potential - but these need to be confirmed in large scale clinical trials'.

The MS Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation has awarded £1 million to fund the UK part of this global clinical trial.

The London trial, led by Dr Paolo Muraro from Imperial College London, will recruit 13 UK participants and will be among 15 to 20 trial centres worldwide.

'This is the first time that researchers from around the world have come together to test stem cell therapies in MS in such a large-scale clinical trial', said Dr Muraro.

This MS clinical trial will take three to five years to complete. If the therapy is effective, it will have to pass phase three clinical trials before it is offered as a treatment for MS.

To date, no stem cell therapy has been proven for MS, however these trials have brought 'much-needed hope' to MS sufferers, said Richard Sykes, chair of the UK Stem Cell Foundation.

MS is a progressive, autoimmune disease, where the body's own immune system attacks the central nervous system (CNS). Disease onset usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. Symptoms include sight loss, severe fatigue, muscle stiffness and – eventually - physical disability.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
BBC News | 29 July 2011
 
MS Trust | 29 July 2011
 
Research Matters
MS Society | 03/2011
 
Guardian | 29 July 2011
 

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