At present, there are no treatments that specifically target the abnormal immune responses in multiple sclerosis (MS). Current approaches─such as interferon, capaxone, or immune suppressants─all act in a non‐specific manner, blocking immune responses against the myelin sheath. While these approaches are useful for reducing the severity of disease, they do not repair the damage to nervous system tissue that has already occurred, and therefore they cannot cure multiple sclerosis.
One type of stem cell, the mesenchymal stem cell, has immune regulatory properties. It is thought that through their regulatory effect on the immune system, they may help stop the immune attack on the myelin sheath. Mesenchymal stem cells may also potentially help remyelination (re-generation of the myelin sheath) of the affected neurons.
Which types of stem cells are used to treat MS and how are they obtained?
The adult stem cells used to treat multiple sclerosis are from the patient’s own fat tissue (autologous mesenchymal stem cells), and from human umbilical cord (allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells).
We obtain the fat tissue sample through a mini-liposuction, which is performed by a certified plastic surgeon under general anesthesia. Mesenchymal stem cells and T regulatory cells are embedded inside this tissue. Our laboratory then separates the cells from the fat. The entire process is subject to stringent quality control. Before they are approved for treatment, the adipose-derived stem cells are tested for quality, bacterial contamination (aerobic and anaerobic), and endotoxin.
The human umbilical cord stem cells are recovered from donated umbilical cords. Before they are approved for treatment, all umbilical cord-derived stem cells are screened for viruses and bacteria to international blood bank standards.
Umbilical cord-derived stem cells supplement our MS treatment protocol with additional uniform stem cell doses. They do not require another stem cell collection from the patient. Because they are collected right after (normal) birth, umbilical cord-derived cells are much more potent than their “older” counterparts like adipose stem cells. These stem cells pose no rejection risk because the body does not recognize them as foreign.