Stem Cell Therapy: An MS Breakthrough in 2023?

Louis A. Cona, MD
Updated on
Jan 27, 2023
6

minute read

Mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to reduce inflammation and modulate the immune system, both of which may be beneficial for MS patients.

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Stem cell therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Stem cell therapy is a new MS infusion treatment aimed at improving disease state by reducing inflammation and regulating immune cells. Stem cell therapy for MS, specifically the administration of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for Multiple Sclerosis, has demonstrated great potential to help improve symptoms and stabilize condition progression.  The immunomodulatory (ability to regulate the immune system), tissue-protective, and repair-promoting properties of MSCs demonstrated in multiple models make them an attractive therapy for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and other conditions characterized by inflammation/or tissue injury.  

MS Patients may be able to expect an increase in energy, flexibility, strength, mobility, and control of essential functions.  Data is also beginning the show that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) administered intravenously may have the ability to halt disease progression for an extended period. (2) 

Pictured: Mindmap showing the potential benefits of stem cell therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Is there a cure for MS?

Currently, there is no known cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease, there is currently no way to stop or reverse the damage caused by MS entirely.

There have been several promising areas of research in recent years, including studies on the use of stem cells and other regenerative therapies, as well as the development of new medications. With advances in research and new treatments being developed, a cure for MS may be discovered soon.

Is stem cell therapy a cure for MS?

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy is a promising alternative to traditional multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a type of stem cell that can differentiate into a variety of cell types, including nerve cells, and can suppress immune response; these cells have been investigated as a potential option to treat multiple sclerosis.

Current research for a Multiple Sclerosis cure

A study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology in 2018 showed that an animal model of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis  treatment with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) significantly reduced inflammation and improved neurological function. (6)

Can stem cells regrow myelin?

Studies have shown that stem cells have the potential to repair myelin sheath. This protective covering surrounds nerve fibers in the central nervous system, which is damaged in MS. In addition, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can modulate the immune response, which is thought to be involved in the development of MS. 

This makes MSCs the newest treatment option for MS as they may help to reduce inflammation and slow or even stop the progression of the disease.

mesenchymal stem cell close up | DVC Stem

Can stem cells reverse nerve damage?

Another study published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy in 2019 suggests that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can protect nerve cells from damage by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress and promoting remyelination. (7)

It's important to note that stem cell therapy for MS is still in the early stages of research and development. Much more research is needed before it can be considered a standard treatment for MS. Additionally, clinical trials with MSCs are still ongoing. The therapy's long-term (5-10 years) efficacy is yet to be determined in third-party peer-reviewed studies.

Stem cell treatment for MS

Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy holds significant potential as a treatment option for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While more research is needed to understand its long-term efficacy, peer-reviewed studies have shown promising results in reducing inflammation and promoting tissue repair in MS patients.

Stem cell treatment for Multiple Sclerosis has demonstrated healing and repair-promoting properties. Expanded cord tissue-derived umbilical cord cells have potentially made it possible to treat MS more effectively. Studies have been conducted on both secondary progressive ms and relapsing-remitting ms.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a natural treatment that can reduce inflammation within the body. Once administered, stem cells help regulate the immune system and prevent further myelin degradation. This makes mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) an attractive therapy for MS and other conditions characterized by inflammation and/or tissue injury. 

Pictured: Infographic showing the different abilities of MSCs

Stem cell Multiple Sclerosis (MS) treatment advantages

  • A growing amount of evidence supporting the ability of mesenchymal stem cells to help regulate the immune system
  • Ability to repair damaged myelin sheath (remyelination) or neurons
  • Umbilical cord tissue provides a high number of mesenchymal cells
  • Stem cells are extremely anti-inflammatory, allowing for the repair and regeneration of tissue
  • IV stem cell therapy is NOT invasive and does not require any downtime
  • Reduction of debilitating MS symptoms
  • Overall stabilization of the condition or extended periods of remission

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What is the success rate of stem cell therapy for MS?

The success rate of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) is still under investigation. Studies on using MSCs in MS have been limited and have shown primarily positive results. Studies for relapsing forms of MS have reported improvement in the symptoms of MS and reduced inflammation following MSC therapy.

A review of studies on MSC therapy for MS found that the treatment was generally safe, with few severe side effects reported. However, the review's authors noted that the studies included were small and had methodological limitations. Therefore, more research is needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of MSC therapy for MS.

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How long does stem cell therapy last for MS?

The duration of the effects of stem cell therapy for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is still under investigation.  Studies on the use of stem cell therapy for MS have reported varying results, and there is currently no consensus on how long the effects of the treatment last.

Some studies have reported that the benefits of stem cell therapy for MS can last for several years, while others have found that the effects are more short-lived. The impact duration may depend on the type of stem cell therapy used, the stage of the disease, and the individual patient.

Colorful macro mesenchymal stem cell | DVC Stem

New treatments for MS: Phase II double-blind trial shows impressive results

A recent phase II double-blind trial, randomized and controlled by placebo study of 48 patients conducted in Isreal, found that mesenchymal stem cell therapy improved MS symptoms in roughly 73% of participants. At the same time, disease progression was halted entirely in approximately 60% of participants. (2)

According to Dr. Ibrahim Kassis: “Some patients stopped using a walker or a stick, and some others increased the distance they can walk”

Study objective

The study evaluated treatment success by measuring participants' Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS scores before and after treatment.  The study concluded that the mean EDSS score improved in the group treated with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)

"The mean EDSS score deteriorated in the sham-treated group and was improved in the MSC-IT and MSC-IV groups during both treatment cycles (= 0.0002 and = 0.007, respectively, versus sham treatment; Mann-Whitney test) (Fig. 2 and Table 3). Two patients showed improvement in EDSS during the first cycle of treatment with MSC-IT and 11 during the second cycle (ranging from 0.5 to 1.0 degrees). The respective numbers of patients with improvement in the MSC-IV group were three and six in the two cycles; one patient showed improvement in the sham treatment group (Table 4)." (2)

Results

The study revealed positive results in all predefined primary endpoints. No serious, treatment-related adverse effects were observed, and significantly fewer patients in the MSC-IT and MSC-IV groups experienced treatment failure. (2) One of the researchers in this study, Petrou et al state:

"Overall, the robust effects of MSC transplantation on various parameters that reflect neurological dysfunction and especially on multiple sclerosis activity may indicate the involvement of (central and peripheral) immunomodulatory and possibly also neuroprotective mechanisms.

Discussion

These benefits seem of particular clinical significance, as they were observed in patients with progressive multiple sclerosis unresponsive to conventional immunotherapies, and for which limited treatment options exist." This study found that mesenchymal stem cell transplantation did have an immunomodulatory effect that positively impacted the MS patients in the study.  

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Stem cells and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) with a solid degenerative component, leading to irreversible disability. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been shown to prevent inflammation and neurodegeneration in MS.

"Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are stromal [precursor] cells residing in many tissues, including the bone marrow (BM), where they support hematopoiesis. Treatment with MSC improves the course of the preclinical model of MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) when administered at early stages. In EAE, MSC has a profound anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effect [59], but they also exhibit neuroprotective features and foster remyelination endogenous neurogenesis with scarce evidence of differentiation in neural cells" - Antonio Uccelli

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have immune regulatory properties that may have the ability to prevent the immune system from attacking the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers. Mesenchymal stem (MSCs) cells may be able to regenerate scar tissue (damaged myelin sheath) of the affected neurons. (also called remyelination)

Stem cell replacement to help Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at DVC Stem

The adult stem cells used at DVC Stem are sourced from ethically donated full-term human umbilical cord tissue (Allogeneic Mesenchymal Stem Cells). The tissue is only sourced from the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) and cultured and expanded in our cGMP, FDA 351 & 361 compliant, IRB-approved partner lab in the United States. This ensures that all human umbilical cord tissue is screened and tested for infectious disease and that the cells' expansion process follows US safety standards.

MS stem cell treatment cost

The cost of stem cell therapy for MS can range anywhere between $25,000 - $50,000 USD. Learn more about the cost of stem cell treatment for MS at DVC Stem here.

Nucleus of stem cell | DVC Stem

What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune central nervous system disorder. (1) Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that causes issues with vision, balance, coordination, muscle control, and other essential body functions. Multiple sclerosis, which causes inflammation and brain and spinal cord damage, can disrupt normal nerve signaling, leading to various symptoms.

The effects differ for each person; some have mild symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms that can prevent them from completing daily tasks.  There are two types of MS; primary progressive ms (PPMS) and relapsing-remitting ms (RRMS).

Primary Progressive MS

Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is a type of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) characterized by a gradual worsening of symptoms from the onset of the disease, with no relapses or remissions. It is considered a less common form of MS, accounting for 10-15% of all MS cases. Symptoms of PPMS can include difficulty walking, fatigue, muscle weakness, and spasticity. There is no currently FDA-approved treatment specifically for PPMS.

Relapsing-Remitting MS

Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis is the most common type of MS, accounting for about 85-90% of all MS cases. People with RRMS experience relapses or exacerbations, where symptoms suddenly worsen or new symptoms appear, followed by periods of remission, where symptoms improve or disappear. Symptoms of RRMS can include fatigue, numbness or tingling in the limbs, muscle weakness, and problems with coordination and balance. There are several FDA-approved treatment options for RRMS, including disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) that can slow the progression of the disease and reduce the frequency and severity of relapses.  Many alternative medicines, such as stem cell therapy and HSCT, may be able to help MS relapses.

What causes MS?

MS is induced by an autoimmune issue that causes the patient's immune system to attack the myelin sheath, a fatty material that surrounds the nerve fibers to protect them. Without this protective outer layer, the nerve cells become vulnerable to damage, resulting in scar tissue. This damage prevents the brain from sending signals throughout the body resulting in a loss of strength, control, and sensation.

As a result, people experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble walking
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Drop foot
  • Muscle weakness or spasms

What age group is typically affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Symptoms typically start between 20 and 40. People can have relapses (periods of worsening symptoms) and periods of recovery where symptoms feel like they are improving. As the disease progresses, symptoms will worsen for most people. Promising studies have shown the efficacy of stem cell therapy and its ability to improve symptoms and even halt disease progression. (This will be explained further below)

What causes Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Scientists still do not know precisely what causes Multiple Sclerosis (MS), but several factors seem to make the disease more likely, including; smoking and certain genetic factors. Certain viral infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus or the Human Herpesvirus 6, which both have immunosuppressive properties, may trigger the disease or cause a relapse. Scientists are studying the link between viruses and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) but have not published conclusive data confirming the connection.

Is there a cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Currently, there is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Still, several treatments can be prescribed to manage the symptoms of MS. Unfortunately, these treatments can be pretty expensive and can reach upwards of $100,000 a year for the newest MS drugs.  Studies have shown that Disease modifying therapies (DMTs) can improve the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis by decreasing the frequency and severity of relapses and slowing the progression of the disease. Studies indicate that starting DMT treatment early after diagnosis can improve outcomes.

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HSCT vs stem cell therapy

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT) and HSCT are very different procedures. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) should generally be considered a high-dose immunosuppressive therapy with hematopoietic stem cell support. Rather than an alternative type of stem cell therapy.

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy has shown similar outcomes to HSCT without the need for aggressive cytotoxic drugs (Chemotherapy). It is also important to note that cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cell therapy has shown the ability to avoid a negative response from a person’s immune system, allowing the cells to be transplanted in a wide range of people without fear rejection. These transplants vastly increase the body’s natural healing abilities and have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive responses.  

Which treatment is more effective?

Many peer-reviewed studies have found that mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT) has potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. In many different models, the intravenous administration of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can improve the healing of neural, renal, and lung injuries. (7) Mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT) also can induce large periods of remission and may help improve MS symptoms, including; loss of strength, mobility, flexibility, numbness, and overall mobility.

The two treatment options (HSCT & MSCT) aim to achieve the same outcome: prevent relapses and new MRI lesions, and improve disability.

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT) aims to prevent relapses and new MRI lesions and improve disability without invasive cytotoxic immunosuppression therapy (Chemotherapy). MSCT can reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system, which is vital in helping improve MS symptoms and promote disease remission.

According to a recent study published by Regmi and colleagues:

"The immunosuppressive activities of MSCs are initiated by cell-to-cell contact and the release of immunoregulatory molecules. By doing so, MSCs can inhibit the proliferation and function of T cells, natural killer cells, B cells, and dendritic cells, and can also increase the proliferation of regulatory T cells." (5)

Choose the treatment that is right for you

Results for Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplants (HSCT) have been mostly positive for autoimmune diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, in which the immune system attacks a patient’s body. The treatment “resets” the immune system, hoping to cease the effects of the disorder. 

However, many patients may be turned off by chemotherapy and the inherent risks associated with such aggressive treatment. Some patients may be in too poor a condition to even attempt this form of therapy. Although safety has dramatically improved with experience, HSCT initially had a 1 in 100 death rate for participants.

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT) is a much less invasive and radical procedure, having little impact on the patient. Mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT) gives patients an option for effective treatment without the risk of chemotherapy or who may be too poor to undergo Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplants HSCT. Additionally, the non-invasive nature of Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy (MSCT) allows for repeat treatment over time without continuous damage being done to the body.

So does the immune system need to be destroyed to help neurological conditions such as MS effectively?

No, it does not. Published studies have found that Mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT) can reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system without invasive immunosuppressive treatments (chemotherapy).  Mesenchymal stem cells also offer intrinsic benefits that hematopoietic stem cells do not, such as the ability to differentiate into a variety of cell types, the release of immunoregulatory molecules, promote the release of exosome and growth factors.

Are stem cells safe?

Umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells do not have any risk of rejection within the body. They are youthful, immune-privileged, undifferentiated cells. There are no blood products associated with this type of MSC either, removing the need for a donor match, they are universally accepted. These cells seek out inflammation in the body and begin to heal the damaged tissue. 

Mesenchymal cord tissue-derived stem cells have been administered thousands of times at clinics worldwide. There have never been any recorded instances of rejection (graft vs. host disease).

Benefits of stem cell therapy for MS

​Other potential advantages of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for people with MS include the injected cells' ability to move from the bloodstream to areas of injured tissues, allowing for a comfortable IV administration of these cells into the body. The stem cells will then be attracted to those areas of injury or inflammation and begin the differentiation process to begin the healing process. Stem cell transplants for MS are generally less invasive, have shorter recovery times, and have lasting healing effects on the body.

Want to learn more about stem cell therapy for MS at DVC Stem?

DVC Stem is a stem cell therapy pioneer, offering stem cell therapies for years, and has become a cornerstone of the medical tourism industry. Located in the tropical paradise of Grand Cayman in the Western Caribbean, we offer patients a nearby alternative to traveling long distances and to less ideal locations. Our protocols are IRB approved, and our cells come from regulated, US-based, FDA-compliant laboratories.

We seek to offer the highest quality products, the latest treatments for various conditions, and a world-class setting and service. We administer over 300 million cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells via IV, our treatments are minimally invasive, and we offer interest-free financing for US residents.

References: 

(1) J Liang, H. (n.d.). Allogeneic mesenchymal stem CELLS transplantation in the treatment of multiple sclerosis - J Liang, H Zhang, B Hua, H Wang, J wang, z Han, L Sun, 2009. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1352458509104590

(2) Petrou, P., Kassis, I., Levin, N., Paul, F., Backner, Y., Benoliel, T., . . . Karussis, D. (2020, November 30). Beneficial effects of autologous mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in active progressive multiple sclerosis. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/143/12/3574/6012789?login=true

(3) V; U. (n.d.). Mesenchymal stem cells in health and disease. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19172693/

(4) Uccelli, A., Laroni, A., Brundin, L., Clanet, M., Fernandez, O., Nabavi, S., . . . MESEMS study group. (2019, May 9). Mesenchymal stem cells for multiple SCLEROSIS (MESEMS): A Randomized, double-blind, CROSS-OVER Phase I/ii clinical trial WITH autologous mesenchymal stem cells for the therapy of multiple sclerosis. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6507027/#CR5

(5) Shobha Regmi, Shiva Pathak, Jong Oh Kim, Chul Soon Yong, Jee-Heon Jeong, Mesenchymal stem cell therapy for the treatment of inflammatory diseases: Challenges, opportunities, and future perspectives, European Journal of Cell Biology, Volume 98, Issues 5–8, 2019, 151041, ISSN 0171-9335, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejcb.2019.04.002. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0171933519300378

(6) Mesenchymal stromal cells in the treatment of multiple sclerosis" by S. A. Meletis, et al., published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy in 2018.

(7) Mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of multiple sclerosis" by S. Scholz, et al., published in The Journal of clinical investigation in 2019.

(8) Multiple sclerosis information page (no date) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/multiple-sclerosis (Accessed: January 17, 2023).

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