Stem Cell Therapy

The Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology is advancing the use of stem cells in neurological conditions. In stem cell therapy, young cells derived from bone marrow are used to treat disease.

In neurological conditions, several types of stem cell therapy intersect with different medical disciplines:

  • Regenerative medicine. Physician-scientists are working to regenerate the nervous system using stem cells to repair injury. Mesenchymal stem cells are injected via a lumbar puncture with the hope that they will mature into nerve cells. Safety studies are underway in people with certain untreatable neurological diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple system atrophy. It's not known yet if these treatments will provide benefit for patients and whether these are broadly applicable in neurological diseases.
  • Multiple sclerosis. Investigators are exploring ways to stop aggressive multiple sclerosis (MS) in cases where other treatments aren't effective. In this approach, part of the immune system in the bone marrow is degraded or eliminated by a drug called cyclophosphamide, a process called conditioning. The patient's own bone marrow stem cells are then given back to the patient to replenish the bone marrow (autologous stem cell transplant). It's hoped that by rebooting the immune system, the inflammation in multiple sclerosis will stop.
  • Other autoimmune diseases of the nervous system. As with multiple sclerosis, using the patient's own stem cells might stop disease progression. For other diseases, though, aggressive immunotherapies are available that could mitigate the need for autologous stem cell transplant.