Stem Cells Reverse MS-Like Illness in Mice

Crippled rodents walked again, but it's uncertain if same approach will help people

THURSDAY, May 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Mice disabled by a multiple sclerosis-like condition were able to walk again a few weeks after receiving human neural stem cell transplants, a new study shows.

While research in mice often fails to pan out in humans, the researchers believe the finding hints at new ways to treat people with MS.

The mice with the MS-like condition had to be fed by hand because they could not stand long enough to eat and drink on their own. But within 10 to 14 days of receiving the human neural stem cells, the rodents regained the ability to walk, along with other motor skills. This improvement was still evident six months later, the researchers said.

The study authors said they were surprised by the results of what they believed was to be a routine experiment. They had expected that the transplanted cells would be rejected by the mice.

"My postdoctoral fellow Dr. Lu Chen came to me and said, 'The mice are walking.' I didn't believe her," study co-senior author Tom Lane, a professor of pathology at the University of Utah, said in a university news release.

The study was published online May 15 in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

"This result opens up a whole new area of research for us to figure out why it worked," co-senior author Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said in the news release.

The next step on the road toward possible clinical trials in people is to assess the safety and durability of the stem cell therapy in mice.

"We want to try to move as quickly and carefully as possible," Lane said. "I would love to see something that could promote repair and ease the burden that patients with MS have."

According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is a central nervous system disorder that affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. There is no cure but medications can treat some symptoms of the disease.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about multiple sclerosis.

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