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Human stem cell treatment gets mice with MS-like condition walking again


May 28, 2014

Disabled mice regained the ability to walk less than two weeks after receiving human neural stem cells (Photo: Shutterstock)

Disabled mice regained the ability to walk less than two weeks after receiving human neural stem cells (Photo: Shutterstock)

When scientists at the University of Utah injected human stem cells into mice disabled by a condition similar to multiple sclerosis, they expected the cells to be rejected by the animals' bodies. It turned out that the cells were indeed rejected, but not before they got the mice walking again. The unexpected finding could have major implications for human MS sufferers.

In multiple sclerosis, the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath that covers and insulates nerve fibers in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve. With that insulation gone, the nerves short-circuit and malfunction, often compromising the patient's ability to walk – among other things.

In the U Utah study (which was begun at the University of California, Irvine) human neural stem cells were grown in a Petri dish, then injected into the afflicted mice. The cells were grown under less crowded conditions than is usual, which reportedly resulted in their being "extremely potent."

As early as one week after being injected, there was no sign of the cells in the animals' bodies – evidence that they had been rejected, as was assumed would happen. Within 10 to 14 days, however, the mice were walking and running. After six months, they still hadn't regressed.

This was reportedly due to the fact that the stem cells emitted chemical signals that instructed the rodents' own cells to repair the damaged myelin. Stem cells grown under the same conditions have since been shown to produce similar results, in tests performed by different laboratories.

Additional mouse trials are now planned to assess the safety and durability of the treatment, with hopes for human clinical trials down the road. "We want to try to move as quickly and carefully as possible," said Dr. Tom Lane, who led the study along with Dr. Jeanne Loring from the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute. "I would love to see something that could promote repair and ease the burden that patients with MS have."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

Source: University of Utah

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I knew a professor with MS who would come into a small office with his electric wheelchair, often hitting things while he tried to manoeuvre around. He uses the public transport everyday. It would be great to see him walking again, perhaps still in his lifetime.

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Leonard Foster

Now this is the sort of thing that neeeds all the grant money it can get! Not silly things like giving caged chickens VR goggles.

The Skud

I hope this works on some spinal cord injuries also.


I would love to be a subject in the first human trial. I have suffered from a spinal injury for 35+ years.

Don Duncan
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