New Hope for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with Epidermal (Skin) Stem Cells

Multiple Sclerosis treatment with stem cells derived from the epidermis (skin)

To follow-up on medical breakthroughs via stem cell treatment from the previous post, Stanford University researchers have created cells from ordinary skin cells that could “rewrap” and protect nerve cells damaged in multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injuries and other conditions.  The popular article was posted today, April 15th in the San Francisco Business Times.  The scientific research article can be found in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

This is monumental for those that are sufferers or have loved ones that suffer from MS.  I am an “empath” since my father suffered from a primary progressive form of MS.  Up until recently, the only available cutting edge techniques involved a combination of chemotherapy (see the many effects of chemo here:  effects of chemo) in junction with MS pharmaceuticals.  This was not an agreeable option for my father since MS left him with subpartial functionality of his limbs.   The magnitude of muscular functionality loss is dependent on the progression of the disease state in each individual.

The published research is ground-breaking for several reasons.  It will allow patients to use their own skin stem cells  to treat the demyelinated oligodendrocytes (see explanation below).  The treatment by one’s own skin stem cells will by-pass the need for immunosuppression and this research could produce cell therapy in as little as three weeks.  Dr. Marius Wernig, offers encouraging words when asked about the abundant amount of research focused on myelin:  “I think that these myelinating cells — or oligodendrocyte precursor cells, or OPCs — have a high chance of working after transplantation.”

Figure: Confocal visualization of central protein in myelin (PLP) in cultivated oligodendrocytes with an EGFP-tag (in yello-green) and an intracellular marker (in red).
Figure: Confocal visualization of central protein in myelin in cultivated oligodendrocytes with an EGFP-tag (in yello-green) and an intracellular marker (in red).

Oligodendrocytes are the myelinating cells of the central nervous system (CNS). They are the end product of a cell lineage which has to undergo a complex and precisely timed program of proliferation (rapid increase in numbers), migration, differentiation, and myelination to finally produce the insulating sheath of axons.  This insulating sheath (myelin) is important for the rapid conduction of electrical nerve impulses, which allows the neural signals to be efficiently sent and received.

Demyelinating disease is any condition that results in damage to the protective covering (myelin sheath) that surrounds nerve fibers in your brain and spinal cord. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve impulses slow or even stop, causing neurological problems.  As you can guess, the effects of this are devastating.

References: 

Bradl, M. & Lassmann, H. 2009. Oligodendrocytes: biology and pathology. Acta Neuropathol. 2010 January; 119(1): 37-53  Published online 2009 October 22. doi:  10.1007/s00401-009-0601-5

2 thoughts on “New Hope for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with Epidermal (Skin) Stem Cells

  1. Hello, have you looked into stem cells therapy? It seems to be very good: my friend worksin a clinic in Mexico where they give embryonic stem cells treatment and she told me they get better result than anything else… What’s your thought about this kind of treatment? Most people that i talk with are scared because it’s so new!

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for your comment. Actually, I was in communication regularly with a local bioscience company that uses adult stem cells injections as a method of regenerative therapy (helping the body heal itself). They also engineer medical devices to work in harmony with an individual’s own adult stem cells (also know as autologous adult stem cells). At the time, I was considering employment with this company but I decided rather to take a position with a molecular biology diagnostics company by the name of Luminex Corp.

      Stem cells do seem to offer hope for the future treatment and possible cure of disease states that are devastating, as well as conditions that are not as severe. In my research of stem cells, I received first hand testimony of individuals who had undergone treatment with autologous adult stem cells. They experienced relief of pain for the first time in many years. The military does not have the same FDA regulations and guidelines as a clinic or hospital in the US. They have much more freedom in using cellular therapies of this kind, and there are existing reports of burn victims successfully being treated by stem cell therapy. This is monumental for our troops.

      You mention that you have a friend working in a clinic in Mexico that is using embryonic stem cells for treatment. I must say that you are the first person I have ever had tell me that they know of embryonic stem cells being used as treatment. If you read my post here: http://meganjrutherford.com/2013/04/14/the-biotech-frontier-in-texas-birdbrains-adult-stem-cell-therapy/
      you will find that in the US, and most other places in the world, that embryonic stem cells are not being used for treatment. They are much more unpredictable and they are, of course, very controversial. If you find time, please reference my post ‘The Biotech Frontier in Texas; Bird Brains & Adult Stem Cell Therapy’. It will address your question in more detail and it explains basic differences between adult and embryonic stem cells.

      Thank you,

      Megan

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