Patients with multiple sclerosis suffer from an impairment in the function of specific cells of their immune system, known as T regulatory cells. The cause for the disease is not clear, and though treatments do exist, they tend to be expensive and to also carry the risk for toxic effects. To overcome the limitations of current treatment options, researchers have begun to explore the use of stem cells in the development of new treatments.
In a study recently published in the journal Oncotarget, researchers described the preliminary results of a study aimed at identifying the feasibility of using stem cells to improve the functioning of T regulatory cells in those with multiple sclerosis. Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells were the chosen cell type for the experiment because this specific type of stem cell has been shown to affect the functioning of immune cells.
The researchers confirmed the idea that T regulatory cells are severely impaired in multiple sclerosis and were able to show that umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells could recover the functioning of the T regulatory cells of multiple sclerosis patients. Not only were there more living, active T regulatory cells in conditions that included the stem cells versus those without stem cells, but these cells also demonstrated the normal types of activities that T regulatory cells contribute to the immune system.
Previous research has established the potential for targeting T regulatory cells in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, but these studies have been conducted primarily in animal models of the disease. These newer results are the first to demonstrate the impact of umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells on immune cells of patients with multiple sclerosis.
Yang, H. et al. (2016). Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells reversed the suppressive deficiency of T regulatory cells from peripheral blood of patients with multiple sclerosis in co-culture – a preliminary study. Oncotarget, 7: 72537-72545.