Multiple Sclerosis: Hope on the Horizon


For people living with the debilitating disease multiple sclerosis (MS), what if hope came from within their own bodies?

According to new research, it might. Adult stem cells from patients could one day relieve symptoms and repair damage caused by MS.

Jeffrey Cohen, MD, Director of Experimental Therapeutics at Cleveland Clinic’s Mellen Center, is the primary investigator in a collaborative Phase I study. He and fellow researchers are testing mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. Mesenchymal stem cells can transform into various types of cells, which is part of what makes them so promising.

Back in February, Dr. Cohen presented his work to members of the U.S. House and Senate at a briefing hosted by Cleveland Clinic in conjunction with the bipartisan Congressional MS Caucus and the National MS Society. So far, 12 patients have been enrolled in the study; a total of 24 people between ages 18 and 55 will participate over the next few years. Bone marrow stem cells removed from their hips will be grown in cultures to increase the number of cells, then infused by IV into the patients. Participants will be monitored for six months. In addition to determining safety, researchers are looking for signs that the stem cells could prevent or repair tissue damage.

“These cells appear to have the ability to promote tissue repair in a wide range of conditions. It is our hope and goal to show that they also are safe and beneficial in MS,” Dr. Cohen says.

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