A substance in human mesenchymal stem cells that promotes growth appears to spur restoration of nerves and their function in rodent models of multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have found.
Their study is embargoed until published in the online version of Nature Neuroscience at 1 p.m. U.S. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, May 20.
In animals injected with hepatocyte growth factor, inflammation declined and neural cells grew. Perhaps most important, the myelin sheath, which protects nerves and their ability to gather and send information, regrew, covering lesions caused by the disease.
"The importance of this work is we think we've identified the driver of the recovery," said Robert H. Miller, professor of neurosciences at the School of Medicine and vice president for research at Case Western Reserve University.
Miller, neurosciences instructor Lianhua Bai and biology professor Arnold I. Caplan, designed the study. They worked with Project Manager Anne DeChant, and research assistants Jordan Hecker, Janet Kranso and Anita Zaremba, from the School of Medicine; and Donald P. Lennon, a research assistant from the university's Skeletal Research Center.
In MS, the immune system attacks myelin, risking injury to exposed nerves' intricate wiring. When damaged, nerve signals can be interrupted, causing loss of balance and coordination, cognitive ability and other functions. Over time, intermittent losses may become permanent.
Miller and Caplan reported in 2009 that when they injected human mesenchymal stem cells into rodent models of MS, the animals recovered from the damage wrought by the disease. Based on their work, a clinical trial is underway in which MS patients are injected with their own stem cells.
In this study, the researchers first wanted to test whether the presence of stem cells or something cells produce promotes recovery. They injec
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Case Western Reserve University