Skin Cells may help repair MS damage

A personalized treatment for multiple sclerosis may be one step closer, thanks to a new study that reveals how a person’s own skin cells could be used to repair the nerve damage that the disease causes.

Led by scientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, the study took skin cells from adult mice with multiple sclerosis (MS) and then reprogramed them into neural stem cells (NSCs).

These “induced neural stem cells” (iNSCs) were transplanted into the rodents’ cerebrospinal fluid.

There, they reduced inflammation and repaired damage to the central nervous system (CNS).

Lead study author Dr. Stefano Pluchino, of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, and team believe that their strategy could offer a promising treatment for MS and other neurological diseases.

The researchers recently reported their findings in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

MS is a progressive neurological disease that is estimated to affect more than 2.3 million people across the globe.

While the precise causes of MS remain unclear, “an abnormal immune system response” is thought to be involved. Such a response leads to inflammation in the CNS, which causes the destruction of myelin, or the fatty substance that protects nerve fibers.

As a result, the nerve fibers become damaged. This disrupts neuronal signaling and triggers the neurological symptoms of MS, including tingling in the face or extremities and problems with movement, balance, and coordination.

Using stem cells to treat MS

Previous research has investigated the use of NSCs for the treatment of MS. NSCs are stem cells that have the ability to transform into different types of cell in the CNS — including neurons and glial cells.

However, there are some barriers to this strategy. As Dr. Pluchino and colleagues note, NSCs are derived from embryos, and it would be hard to obtain them in high enough quantities to sustain clinical treatment.

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Published 02/23/2018

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