The latest study published in the neurology journal has confirmed that even after three years post stem cell transplant; multiple sclerosis patients remained in a sustained remission with active neurological functional improvement. This has definitely sparked a hope to millions of patients who have been suffering from a deadly neurodegenerative disease, the Multiple Sclerosis. Scientists who have been involved in the study were investigating autologous stem cells, isolated from the patients own body sources such as bone marrow for the past 20 years. The main objectives of the study were to remove disease inducing immune cells and to reset the new immune system with the systematic application of autologous stem cells.
Stem cells are the master cells of the body, which can form any cell type with the proper signaling and other growth factors. In fact, they are the first cells, which can occur from day four after fertilization and the technology has the provision of isolating these cells from as early as eight cell stage i.e. blastocyst stage. These cells are capable of generating the entire human body outside! However, due to ethical obligations, isolation of cells at this early stage is controversial, hence scientists have diverted their attention to the adult stem cells, which are present in the niche of mature and fully functional organs such as Bone Marrow. These cells are present there throughout the entire life of the human body and can act in a crisis such as diseases.
Multiple sclerosis is one of the many forms of autoimmune degenerative disorder affecting the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves in our eyes. Although the symptoms associated with the disorders are often variable, commonly a person affected with MS can face challenges associated with vision, balance, muscle control and other basic body functions. As we all know the central nervous system or the brain is the chief functional unit of our body. Whatever we do like walking, running, crying, laughing is governed by our brain. This difficult task has been achieved by passing signals through neurons to different organs of our body. Neurons are the brain cells, found in the form of a dense network in the brain. Each neuron has a longer projection through which it has been attached to the other neuron. These projections are again covered with the insulating material known as the myelin sheath. When the person has a Multiple Sclerosis, it has been observed that the myelin sheath has been degenerated by his own immune cells, due to which neurons are easily exposed and hence are damaged. This, in turn, halts the signaling process of the brain, thus which the person becomes handicapped and unable to perform his routine tasks.
However, stem cells can now be isolated from our own bone marrow or adipose tissue, can be enriched in the laboratory and then can be re-infused back through the lumbar puncture in the cerebro-spinal fluid of the brain and spinal cord. These stem cells then start secreting other growth factors and withdraw the faulty immune cells and reset the new immune system back on functions. These stem cells can also help in the regeneration of damaged neurons to normalize the function.
Hence, medical professionals have found that the stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis can often help prevent relapses and slow the disease effect.