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Using the Body's Stem Cells to Treat Multiple Sclerosis


While medicine that can help the body heal itself only appears to be science fiction, an approach involving stem cells is now under proper assessment as a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is a disease in which the immune system helps deteriorate the protective covering of nerves, resulting in nerve damage that disrupts communication from the brain to the body and vice versa. This disease affects around 2.3 million people around the world.

While there are multiple forms of MS, which are associated with a variety of symptoms, it appears the underlying issue is damage to the insulation surrounding the nerves, called myelin, and the cells which produce it, called oligodendrocytes. The insulation loss creates communication disorders throughout the entire nervous system.

Current treatment of MS often involves an attempt to relieve the symptoms that occur from the communication defect or control the immune system to curb disease activity. Despite the effectiveness of these treatments, they do not prevent the progression of the chronic illness.

According to a published study in the scientific journal Nature, treatment is being developed based on the stimulation of myelin production. The idea is to find a way to stimulate stem cells to repair the damaged insulation, since neural stem cells have the ability to renew themselves and produce multiple cell types, including oligodendrocytes.

Dr. Paul Tesar and his scientific team sought to find drugs that could specifically stimulate the maturation of central nervous system stem cells to create myelin-producing oligodendrocytes. After screen about 700 different drugs which had been previously used in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved clinical trials, Dr. Tesar’s team identified two substances: Miconazole and clobetasol.

Miconazole is an ingredient found in over-the-counter treatments for fungal infections, including athlete’s foot. Clobetasol is a topical corticosteroid that is used for multiple skin conditions.

When these substances were used in animal models of MS, not only were they able to stimulate the differentiation of stem cells into mature oligodendrocytes, they also stimulated the development of new insulation (myelin), reversing disease severity altogether. Even though not all adult tissues found in our body possess stem cells, this plan may very well change the way MS is managed.

It is still too early to say if these drugs will be the effective medicine against MS; however, the discovery of Dr. Tesar offers hope that the successful MS drugs are on the horizon.

For more information about our stem cell therapy, contact Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine today.