MS patient James Stewart is holding on to the hope offered by stem cell research

Multiple Sclerosis


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and in the connection between the brain and body.

Read more below about how stem cell research is helping in the fight against MS.

About

  • MS involves an abnormal response of the body’s immune system that attacks the CNS, causing inflammation that damages nerve fibers, myelin — the fat that surrounds and insulates nerve fibers — and the specialized cells that produce myelin. This damage interferes with messages within the CNS, producing a variety of neurological symptoms that vary from person to person.
  • The name “multiple sclerosis” comes from the process of scar tissue developing on the damaged nerve areas.
  • Scientists believe that a combination of environmental and genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing MS, though the cause of MS is still unknown.
  • Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Women are affected at a higher incidence than men, with almost 2-3 times more women diagnosed with MS than men.
  • In general, there are four disease courses experienced by people with MS: Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS), Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS), Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS) and Primary Progressive MS (PPMS).

How Stem Cell Research Can be Used to Treat Multiple Sclerosis

Stem cell-based approaches fall into two main categories:

  1. Anti-inflammatory therapies
    1. The hyperactive immune cells that attack myelin sheaths and cause MS can be destroyed and replaced with a normally functioning immune system.
    2. Stem cells could also produce many anti-inflammatory molecules that could change the environment and reduce inflammation. 
  2. Remyelination
    1. The damaged nervous system, specifically the damaged myelin, can be repaired via: 
      1. Direct replacement of the myelin-forming cells;
      2. Replacement of the stem cell populations that can support myelin-forming cells.

CIRM’s Progress: Selected Research Highlights

  1. CIRM-funded researchers at UC Irvine have used human pluripotent stem cells to derive neural progenitors — the types of cells that the nervous system needs. Their results revealed a previously unidentified importance of a specific population of immune cells, called regulatory T-cells, in promoting recovery and repair in MS.
  2. Other CIRM-funded researchers at Scripps Research Institute have studied how the body’s natural processes could mediate repair. They have identified drugs that could stimulate the body’s own stem cells to replace damaged myelin.

Multiple Sclerosis Organizations Endorsing YES on Prop 14

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To see the full list of over 80 patient advocate organizations that endorse YES on Prop 14, please click here.