A recent open-label, single-arm, phase 1 clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of repeated intrathecal (IT) administration of autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from bone marrow in patients with progressive multiple sclerosis demonstrated findings and benefits resulting in the initiation of an FDA-approved randomized, placebo-controlled and blinded phase II large group study to demine further efficacy of this procedure.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a progressive condition where the body’s immune system attacks myelin, the protective sheath covering the nerves of the central nervous system, resulting in debilitating communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.
While the specific cause of MS has yet to be determined, the disease itself is characterized by specific areas of inflammatory CNS demyelination that either regenerates or progresses into a chronic condition with accompanying loss of neurons, neuroglial cells, and glial scarring.
Roughly 10% to 15% of MS patients experience progressive symptoms from the onset of the disease, including motor weakness, paralysis, sensory dysfunction, loss of coordination, and cognitive decline.
Although there are immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory therapies that serve to slow the progression of MS, therapeutics designed to protect, repair, or regenerate neural tissue as a way of restoring neurological function do not currently exist. Considering that, mesenchymal stem cells gathered from bone marrow have demonstrated the ability to promote tissue repair through the secretion of paracrine factors.
Study Design and Findings
The treatment phase of this phase 1 trial, conducted at Tisch MS Research Center of New York, involved select participants with progressive MS receiving three separate IT injections of autologous mesenchymal stem cell-defined neural progenitors (MSC-NPs) spaced three months apart; each participant was then assessed the day of treatment, then the day, week, and month following each administration. As part of the post-treatment assessment, participants were assessed again three and six-month after receiving the third dose.
Analyzing the results of this study, researchers found no serious adverse effects or hospitalizations associated with this IT MSC-NP treatment; this included no specific incidents of chemical or infectious meningitis.
Brain MRI scans gathered during the course of this study demonstrated no changes and specifically were characterized by the absence of new or additional T2 lesions or related progressions associated with the patient’s MS. These findings led researchers to conclude that multiple IT administrations of MSC-NP’s are safe in the short-term and well-tolerated in participants with progressive MS.
Over the course of the study, all participants were strictly monitored for changes associated with clinical status. Assessment information gathered at the three and six-month post-treatment marks demonstrated that 75% of the subjects in this study demonstrated specific neurological improvement associated with this IT MSC-NP treatment when compared to established benchmarks, including neurological improvement associate with:
- Expanded disability status scale (EDSS)
- Timed 25-ft walk (T25FW)
- MRC muscle strength scale
- Bladder function
Key findings and observations contributing to this study include previous studies of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) animal models of MS led to the experimental design of this study including multiple dosing of MSC-NPs (as opposed to single dosing).
When constructing this research study, researchers also determined that the intrathecal route of administration for cell delivery was important. While previous research has demonstrated administering bone marrow MSCs intravenously has proven to suppress EAE through immune response, intravenous administration has not demonstrated to cross the blood-brain barrier in amounts sufficient to directly impact and/or benefit the CNS; the IT route of administration appears to maximize the therapeutic potential to benefit the CNS and spinal cord.
This study concluded that IT therapy with MSC-NPS is safe and well-tolerated in patients with progressive MS and demonstrated a number of neurological benefits. As a result of this phase 1 trial, an initiation of FDA-approved randomized, placebo-controlled, and blinded phase II study in a larger group study to better determine efficacy in patients with progressive MS.
Reference: (n.d.). Phase I Trial of Intrathecal Mesenchymal Stem Cell-derived …. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352396418300513