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Multiple Sclerosis stem cell therapy trialled

10 May 2010
Appeared in BioNews 557

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.

In the phase I clinical trial, six MS patients were injected with stem cells harvested from their own bone marrow. The main aim of the study was to determine whether this procedure was safe and free from side effects. The researchers also regularly tested the patients for disease progression.

The study, carried out at Frenchay Hospital, found no serious side effects associated with the procedure. It also found that the MS was stable in five out of the six patients receiving bone marrow stem cells, and did not deteriorate over the twelve month period.

Dr Claire Rice, Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, said: 'The results are very encouraging. We would have expected these pathways to get worse but they have actually got better. It is exciting because the treatment is relatively pain free and patients do not need to stay overnight in hospital'.

Liz Allison, one of the volunteers being studied, said: 'My long-term hope is that stem cell research will be a cure for MS and will be available for everyone who is afflicted with this disease. It has the added benefit of being a relatively pain-free procedure and having no side effects'.

Professor Scolding added: 'Research into the underlying mechanisms is ongoing and vital, in order to build on these results. We believe that stem cells mobilised from the marrow to the blood are responsible, and that they help improve disease in several ways, including neuroprotection and immune modulation'.

These results are preliminary, and the researchers are planning a larger trial of the treatment. Professor Neil Scolding, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at North Bristol NHS Trust, said: 'A larger study is required to assess the effectiveness of bone marrow cellular therapy in treating MS. We are hopeful that recruitment to this phase 2/3 study may begin towards the end of this year'.

The advantage of this technique is that it uses patients' own adult bone marrow stem cells, which reduces the risk of rejection and carries no ethical implications.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

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