Multiple sclerosis: Skin cells may help to repair nerve damage

Doctor working in blood samples in test tubes in an hospital

February 23, 2018 (Medical News Today)

It has long been hypothesized that MS is caused by the immune system’s inflammatory attacks on myelin (the insulation around nerve cells). Previous research has examined the use of neural stem cells (NSCs) in the treatment of MS because of their ability to transform into different types of cells present in the central nervous system. However, using NSCs derived from embryos is difficult for two reasons: it is hard to gather enough stem cells for clinical treatment and the immune system could reject embryonic stem cells as foreign invaders.

However, a new study reveals how skin cells may be used to repair nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis. The study has been published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

A research team at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, used skin cells from adult mice with MS and engineered them into neural stem cells (iNSCs).

These iNSCs were then transplanted into the cerebrospinal fluid of the mice. These induced NSCs reduced inflammation and repaired damage to the central nervous system.

Because the iNSCs are engineered from a person’s own skin, it would reduce the risk of the immune system rejecting them. Also, they would be in much more plentiful supply than embryonic stem cells.

The new research is promising and will lead to further investigation.

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