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£1 million funding for stem cell research into multiple sclerosis announced

1 February 2010
Appeared in BioNews 544

The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF) have announced a funding competition for a million pounds of seed capital to help research into multiple sclerosis in the UK. The money, which has been contributed from the budgets of both organisations is to be employed to 'pump-prime and speed up stem cell research' in relation to the condition in the hope of bringing novel stem cell technologies to the clinic sooner than would otherwise be possible.

The funding will help fast-track stem cell based treatments through expensive phase one and two clinical testing. Applications for funding will remain open until midday 17 March 2010, with funds being allocated later this summer. The drive to target funding at this single condition follows UKSCF's 2009 'International Consensus Meeting for stem cell therapies' which identified MS as a condition that was particularly liable to benefit from increased stem cell research activity.

The announcement of the new funding, was made on the same day as a special meeting of the London Regenerative Medicine Network, where presentations were made on the future of research into MS. Professor Robert Franklin, Director of the MS Society's Cambridge Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, noted the connections between current research on cancer and pathways identified as relevant in the treatment of MS.

Researchers have discovered that the body naturally produces replacement myelin in cells called oligodendrocytes. Unfortunately, Professor Franklin noted, the body cannot do this sufficiently to replace the quantity of these cells lost from nerve fibres in patients with MS. Explaining the potential for stem cell therapies to assist those with MS, he noted that drugs designed to interfere with tumour development appear also to target the myelinating pathway. His Centre's work on creating specific therapies to stimulate natural myelination are complemented by a second approach introduced by Professor Martino of the University of Milan, which involves attempts to promote natural myelination through enlarging the population of oligodendrocytes through stem cell implantation.

Early studies using bone marrow stem cells in MS patients have yielded encouraging results and the usage of neural stem cells in animal models has also seen some success. While there is grounds for hope that new treatments for MS may become available in the near future, the experts were quick to distance this pioneering work from unlicensed stem cell treatments currently being sold by rogue practitioners.

Advancing Stem Cell Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis
Genetic Engineering News |  25 January 2010
New partnership pumps £1m into stem cell research for multiple sclerosis
BMJ |  1 February 2010
UK Stem Cell Foundation |  14 January 2010
UK Stem Cell Foundation & MS Society Stem Cell Research Collaboration
MS Society |  14 January 2010
10 May 2010 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
A clinical trial investigating the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) using bone marrow stem cells has produced encouraging results, researchers at Bristol University have reported....
10 January 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
Scientist and patient groups want more safeguards to prevent clinics in the UK from offering unproven stem cell treatments, according to the Guardian newspaper. The calls come as a Harley Street doctor - Robert Trossel - comes before the General Medical Council (GMC) accused of misconduct, the newspaper reports. According to the Guardian, the upcoming GMC hearing will consider allegations that he offered, and made false claims about, stem cell therapy. Dr Trossel is accused of ...
16 November 2009 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded fourteen teams a total of $230 million for the advancement of stem cell therapy. The CIRM was created as a measure by the Californian State to fund work on human embryonic stem (ES) cells.Californian voters approved the 10-year, $3 billion effort in 2004 largely to get around restrictions on ES cell research imposed by the administration of President George W Bush. This year, President Obama's administration relaxed thes...
27 April 2009 - by Alison Cranage 
A report published in the Journal of Translational Medicine shows that stem cells taken from patients' adipose (fat) tissue may be able help relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). In the preliminary study by researchers from Medistem Inc. and the Division of Neurosurgery, University of California...
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