ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, mice that were paralyzed with a disease similar to multiple sclerosis regained the ability to walk and run again.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheath surrounding neurons, resulting in the formation of plaques.
A team of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute, University of Utah, and University of California Irvine implanted stem cells into the spinal cords of mice.
The mice were able to walk again even after their bodies rejected the stem cells.
“When we implanted the human cells into mice that were paralyzed, they got up and started walking a couple of weeks later, and they completely recovered over the next several months,” Jeanne Loring, a professor of development neurobiology at TSRI, and the study’s co-leader, said in a press release.
“We’ve been studying mouse stem cells for a long time, but we never saw the clinical improvement that occurred with the human cells that Dr. Loring’s lab provided,” Thomas Lane, an immunologist at the University of Utah, said.
MS is a progressive and usually fluctuating disease with patients feeling worse and patients feeling better over many decades. In many cases of patients with MS, permanent disability and even death can occur. The cause of MS is unknown.
In the study, the scientists were able to show that the implanted human stem cells triggered the creation of white blood cells known as regulatory T cells. These cells are responsible for shutting down the autoimmune response at the end of an inflammation. The implanted cells released proteins that signaled cells to re-myelinate the nerve cells that had been stripped of their protective sheaths.
“I wanted the cells to have similar properties, and they looked really different when I didn’t transfer them,” Ron Coleman, a TSRI graduate student in Lorings’s lab, said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MS is 3 times more common in women than men. The CDC says that because MS is not widely recognized as a childhood disorder, diagnosis is often missed or delays.
The team is working on further research to see if they can pinpoint which proteins released by the neural precursor cells are responsible for the animals’ recovery. “Once we identify the factors that are responsible for healing, we could make a drug out of them,” Lane said.
“We’re on the trail now of what these cells do and how they work,” Loring added.
The findings were reported in the journal Stem Cell Reports.