MS Good News Report: Stem Cells, a New "Ultra-Relay" & More

Research news with a positive angle.


MS and stem cells in research news

Researchers recently looked at the behavior of skin cells (from three people with MS and three people without MS) after reverting them to stem cells in the lab.1 They injected them into the nervous systems of mice.

The cells then developed through the normal stages of growth and maturity, ultimately becoming oligodendrocytes (cells that build myelin).

Stem cells derived from skin discovered to make myelin

They also worked in tandem with other brain cells to form myelin around axons and assist the conduction of nerve impulses.

While the research remains complex, here’s the takeaway: Not only can scientists turn patients’ skin cells into potential stem cell sources for use in myelin repair, but they can also confirm that the cells aren’t the source of MS dysfunction; instead, the brain environment may be. This will help scientists refine their research targets in the future.

Jerusalem-based research shows progressive MS patients benefit from NG-01 stem cells

NG-01 stem cells belong to a category of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) under active scrutiny for their ability to treat patients with PPMS. New research published in Brain showed success in recent clinical trials testing NG-O1 stem cells over 14 months.2 The goals the researchers met included:

  • Proof of safety
  • Fewer dropouts
  • Higher reports of no evidence of disease activity (NEDA)
  • Gait improvements
  • Evidence that intrathecal injection (in the spine) works better than intravenous (in the veins)

Lead investigator Dimitrios Karussis, director of the MS Center at Hadassah Hospitals, said that among those who received the intrathecal injection of stem cells, 60 percent enjoyed “frozen” disease progression.3 “The patients’ improvement was in many cases quite remarkable and included regain of motor function and noticeable effects on their cognitive abilities,” he said in a press release.2


US ultra-relay set to take place in 2021 to raise awareness and funds for MS research

Nineteen runners are training now to tackle the 3,260-mile relay race across America this spring and summer. The event, called the MS Run the US relay, starts in Santa Monica, CA on April 9 and ends in New York, NY on August 20.

This is the first and only 3,260-mile “ultra relay” ever to take place in the US. Runners from all over the country are participating in this massive undertaking, including Logan Locke, 24, of Bowling Green, KY. For his part, he will run 141 miles over five days this coming July.

Locke told WNKY reporters that while he doesn’t have MS, “once we had our first team call, and I saw how many of my teammates battle this disease as it is, it makes me wanna push myself even more...to help make a difference and help people understand what MS is. And help them realize that my job is easy—running 28 miles a day, I would gladly do it if it’s gonna help raise money for people that battle it …especially those severe cases when they don’t have the financial abilities to get the wheelchairs they need or the stairlifts that they need.”4

To learn more about this exciting event, including team applications, donation campaigns, and other ways to become involved, visit the MS Run the US website.5


Cells from the gut may migrate to the brain to defend against MS inflammation

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco sought to follow up on previous laboratory observations in mice which showed that certain cells in the gut—IgA-producing cells—migrate to the central nervous system (CNS) to fight inflammation.6

They wished to see if this “unprecedented phenomenon” might occur in human subjects. And they did, reporting new evidence of a theoretical gut-brain continuum.

How the gut cells supported an anti-inflammatory response

In subjects experiencing MS flareups, these gut cells provided the CNS with anti-inflammatory support in the form of IgA-producing cells. These, in turn, produced IgA cell colonies researchers successfully located near sites of acute inflammation.

They also found these cells in the spinal fluid of 80 percent of the MS patients with active disease in the study. Their peers in remission didn’t show the same findings.

Study author Dr. Sergio Baranzini said, "Identifying exactly what these cells are doing in the brain will be an important step towards fully understanding how MS establishes and perpetuates an inflammatory state in the brain."


MS Drug research updates, in brief

Check out these end-of-the-year good news stories about potential treatments for MS:7-11

  • December 10: Ublituximab monotherapy for MS shows positive phase 3 results
  • December 14: Shorter ocrelizumab infusion approved by FDA
  • December 17: Mayzent improves cognitive function in SPMS
  • December 21: Plegridy approved for RRMS in Europe
  • December 28: Long-term use of DMTs proven effective for preventing disability in 15-year study

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