Approximately 2.5 million people have multiple sclerosis throughout the world and there are roughly 400 new cases each week¹. There is no existing cure and current treatments only ease symptoms, shorten the duration of attacks and slow the progression of the disease. So far, research is showing that stem cells could be a great breakthrough in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system (CNS) disorder in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is the insulation for our nerve cells that are responsible for transmitting information along the brain and spinal cord. Multiple areas of scarring appear on the myelin sheath due to inflammation and this inhibits the nerve cells from communicating with each other. Common symptoms include numbness or tingling, weakness, pain, and cognitive changes.
Currently there is no cure for multiple sclerosis but many patients seek treatment to ease symptoms and slow progression. One common treatment method is immunotherapy in which the patient takes medication to decrease the frequency and severity of attacks. Some patients seek physical therapy to ease muscle stiffness or to learn how to use assistive devices.
Stem cell treatment
Doctors have recently started applying stem cell research to multiple sclerosis to reduce the severity and progression of the disease. The stem cells that are used are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These adult stem cells are derived from a donated human umbilical cord after a normal, healthy birth. All mothers who donate must pass a test for infectious disease and undergo medical history screening. Once transplanted, MSCs help regulate the immune system and can stop it from attacking the myelin sheath.
Result and continuous research
Not only do the stem cells regulate the immune system, but they have the ability to reverse the progression of the disease and actually repair the damaged myelin sheath. While this treatment for multiple sclerosis still requires additional research, several cases have already shown amazing results. This research could soon help the millions of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.
¹Multiple Sclerosis by the Numbers, Health Line