What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a degenerative disease involving the deterioration of nerve cells. MS attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.
Multiple sclerosis occurs when the body’s own defense system attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. The nerve fibers themselves can also be damaged. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing the variety of symptoms that can occur.
Can Stem Cell studies help patients with Multiple Sclerosis?
Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease. StemGenex is offering access to Multiple Sclerosis clinical studies registered through The National Institutes of Health at www.clinicaltrials.gov/stemgenex. These Multiple Sclerosis Stem Cell Clinical Studies are being studied for their efficacy in improving the complications in patients with MS, through the use of stem cells. These procedures may help patients who don’t respond to typical drug treatment.
Frequently Asked Stem Cell Studies for MS Questions
- What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is widely believed to be an autoimmune condition – the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks, and subsequently damages, the ‘myelin sheath’ protecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This damage causes messages to and from the brain to be slowed, distorted or stopped altogether. This is what leads to the symptoms of MS.
Damage to the myelin sheath is believed to cause ‘relapses’, or MS attacks. In these attacks, symptoms flare up and last for anything from 24 hours to several months. Over time, if nerve fibres themselves become damaged, or destroyed completely, this can lead to ‘progression’ of the MS and an increase in disability.
- What are main types of MS?
- Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS):
Periods of acute attacks with worsening of symptoms followed by complete or partial recovery (remission)
Around 85 per cent of people with MS are diagnosed with RRMS.
- Secondary progressive MS (SPMS):
Following an initial period of relapsing remitting MS, many people develop secondary progressive MS. This is characterised by a gradual accumulation of disability, either with or without relapses (relapsing SPMS or non-relapsing SPMS).
- Primary progressive MS (PPMS):
A gradual accumulation of disability from the beginning, with no distinct periods of relapse and remission.
Around 10-15 per cent of people diagnosed have this form of MS.
- Progressive-Relapsing MS:
In this relatively rare course of MS (5%), people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions.
- Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS):
- What are the symptoms of MS?
People suffering from Multiple Sclerosis often suffer from the following symptoms:
- Problems with balance and walking
- Changes in vision
- Emotional changes
- Impaired thinking
- Impaired understanding
- Poor muscle coordination
- Sexual problems
- Slurred speech
- Bladder and bowel problems
- What are stem cells?
Stem cells are unprogrammed cells in the human body that can be described as "shape shifters." These cells have the ability to change or “differentiate” into other types of cells. Stem cells are at the center of a new field of science called regenerative medicine. Because stem cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes and more.
- What are the different types of stem cells?
StemGenex offers stem cell therapy using Adult stem cells only. There are four known types of stem cells:
- Adult Stem Cells - derived from the adult human body
The use of adult stem cells in research and therapy is not as controversial as the use of embryonic stem cells, because the production of adult stem cells does not require the destruction of an embryo. Additionally, in instances where adult stem cells are obtained from the intended recipient, the risk of rejection is essentially non-existent. Consequently, more US government funding is being provided for adult stem cell research. This is why StemGenex offers stem cell studies using Adult stem cells only.
- Embryonic Stem Cells - derived from embryos
These cells require specific signals to differentiate to the desired cell type. If they are simply injected directly, they will differentiate into many different types of cells, resulting in a tumor derived from this abnormal pluripotent cell development (a teratoma). The directed differentiation of ES cells and avoidance of transplant rejection are just two of the hurdles that ES cell researchers still face. StemGenex does not use embryonic stem cells.
- Fetal Stem Cells - derived from aborted fetuses
Have developed further than embryonic stem cells and are a little more specialized – their options are slightly more limited. However, they can still produce most types of cell in the body. StemGenex does not use fetal stem cells.
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) - from some parts of the human body
These stem cells are engineered from older, fully specialized cells – for example, skin cells, which are limited naturally to being only skin cells. Scientists encourage these limited cells to act like embryonic stem cells again, with the ability to become any type of human cell. This is a complex technique that has only recently been developed and is the subject of much ongoing research. StemGenex does not use induced pluripotent stem cells.
- Adult Stem Cells - derived from the adult human body
- What is a stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is an intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury. Many medical researchers believe that stem cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease and alleviate suffering. The ability of stem cells to self-renew and give rise to subsequent generations with variable degrees of differentiation capacities, offers significant potential for generation of tissues that can potentially replace diseases and damaged areas in the body, with minimal risk of rejection and side effects.
- How could stem cells help in MS?
From what we know so far about stem cells and MS, there are two main ways that potential treatments for MS might be developed:
- Immunomodulation – preventing immune damage to the nervous system
- Remyelination – repairing the myelin sheath that has already been damaged
These are both considered ‘neuroprotective’ therapies because they aim to protect the nerve fibres inside the myelin sheath.
Because MS is a neurodegenerative disease, and its more prominent feature is the damage the disease does to the central nervous system, it is hoped that stem cells may hold the key to reversing the damage done by facilitating the repair of damaged nerve cells.
- How are stem cells administered for MS?
StemGenex is studying potential ways to directly target the conditions and complications themselves. These studies consist of multiple ways to deliver the highest amount of activated stem cells to the areas patients need them most. When stem cells are studied through StemGenex, as potential therapy for Multiple Sclerosis, there are multiple ways they can be administered:
- Full body IV – directed into the vein
- Intra Nasal – administration to access a highly vascular pathway of the nose to encourage more stem cells to travel past the blood brain barrier
- Direct Bladder Injections – administration to access the bladder directly in attempts to alleviate issues of incontinence in patients
- Injections at the Base of the spine – administration targeting lesions on the spine
- Direct site injections - injected directly into the site that needs repair, i.e., muscles and tendons
Where stem cells are injected is likely to influence how they work. The intravenous and intrathecal methods are so far the only ones used to test treatments for MS, but all might have a role to play as we learn more about stem cells.
- Should we be researching stem cells?
Yes. Scientists around the world believe there is enough evidence to suggest that stem cells hold real potential as a therapy for MS. This evidence comes from a multitude of early clinical studies. They believe that it is now time for a concerted effort in stem cell research and an international effort to support clinical studies of stem cells for MS.
- Are stem cells an FDA approved therapy for Autoimmune Disease?
No. There are currently no FDA approved stem cell therapies for MS disease. All stem cell therapies for MS disease are currently ‘unproven’, ‘experimental’ therapies. This means that the FDA does not know whether stem cells are effective for people with MS disease. The only way to determine the effectiveness of stem cell therapy is through the type of clinical studies and trials which are currently being conducted in the US.
- How effective might stem cells be?
One of the goals of StemGenex, through our stem cell studies, is to understand what a particular stem cell therapy might be able to achieve. For example, does it have the potential for slowing the disease's progression, replacing damaged cells and memories, or both? With this goal in mind, StemGenex continues to study these diseases and the full effect of stem cell therapy on each disease. Anecdotally, these results have been overwhelmingly positive but there is more that needs to be done to determine the exact effectiveness of these therapies.
- If I received a stem cell transplant, how long would it take to work?
After stem cells have been administered into someone’s body they have to make their way to the correct place (e.g. area of damage) and then have their desired effect. This process takes time and although it is difficult to predict exactly how long, it is likely that it will take several weeks or months on average to see the full desired effect.
- Could a stem cell therapy be repeated?
Yes, a stem cell therapy may be repeated. Current studies indicate the strong possibility of a cumulative effect from multiple stem cell therapies a patient received for their condition. Long-term studies will attempt to better understand this in detail.