For Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, we’re highlighting a publication in the journal Neurology from researchers in Italy that suggests that hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) — the same kind of cells found in cord blood — can help prevent worsening disabilities in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS is a common and debilitating autoimmune condition that affects the nervous system. While the specifics remain unknown, scientists believe it could be due to an immune system dysfunction that destroys the protective insulation (called myelin) coating nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.1
Treatment typically includes drugs that work to reduce inflammation, improve motor and cognitive function, and improve fatigue and depression.
Why Stem Cells Could Help
For more than twenty years, researchers have been evaluating the use of HCSs from bone marrow to treat MS. Last year, we reported an ongoing clinical trial that is testing whether a HSC transplant (HSCT) could help “reset the immune system” and stop or suppress further damage.
Early clinical trials found that patients who receive a HSCT show improved neurological outcomes and quality of life, but until now there has been no long-term data to determine the stability of these improvements over time.
What Does the Study Say?
This 20-year study out of Italy includes 210 individuals who underwent a HSCT for MS between 1997 and 2019. The majority were diagnosed with a relapsing form of multiple sclerosis and had a moderate-to-high level of disability, meaning they required the help of a cane or crutch for mobility.
As is standard, patients received chemotherapy prior to their HSCT. This is a necessary step to deplete the bone marrow and “make room” for the stem cell transplant. It is also believed to eliminate the faulty autoimmune behaviors of the patient’s own immune cells.
More than half of participants (65.5%) showed no signs of their disability worsening 10 years after receiving their transplant. This suggests that HSCs can help prevent worsening disabilities in patients with MS!
What This Means For Newborn Stem Cells
Since HSCs, like those collected from bone marrow and peripheral blood for stem cell transplants, are also found in cord blood, it is possible that one day cord blood could be used to reset the immune systems of patients with multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune diseases. Please note that these therapies are only in their research stages, so it is not currently feasible to treat these conditions with HSCs. However, we believe the future looks bright.
Another Reason To Preserve
Expecting families now have another reason to consider preserving their baby’s newborn stem cells, and those who have already preserved have another reason to feel comforted about these future possibilities.
Expecting a child? Have friends or family who are expecting? Enroll with us today or log into your account for your unique referral code. When someone you refer preserves with CBR, you’ll get one year of free cord blood storage—and they’ll receive special pricing on our cord blood and cord tissue bundle.
References: 1. Sharrack, B., Saccardi, R., Alexander, T. et al. Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and other cellular therapy in multiple sclerosis and immune-mediated neurological diseases: updated guidelines and recommendations from the EBMT Autoimmune Diseases Working Party (ADWP) and the Joint Accreditation Committee of EBMT and ISCT (JACIE). Bone Marrow Transplant 55, 283–306 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41409-019-0684-0