Newsweek recently reported that some patients with MS are trying new, more aggressive therapies; including stem cell therapy treatment. The pioneer of the stem cell therapy treatment is Dr. Saud A. Sadiq of the Tisch MS Research Center of New York. While still in its early stages, the therapy involves the harvesting of stem cells from a patients' own bone marrow. The stem cells are then transformed in a laboratory into "neural progenitors". The neural progenitors are then injected into the patient's spinal fluid. The intent is that the neural progenitors could eventually lead to the repair of the myelin sheaths in the brain.
Stem cell therapy treatment is just one part of a broader push to understand the neurological disorders that affect the structure of the brain. As the baby boomer generation ages, more and more people within that age group may become affected by disorders such as MS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
As a result, a commitment has been made by the White House to allocate $100 million in federal research funds for initiatives geared at understanding the brain. In addition, organizations such as the Ann Romney (wife of Mitt Romney) Center for Neurologic Diseases are also working on understanding the brain and its neurological disorders in an effort to find treatments, and ultimately a cure.
Pinpointing an Immune Marker: The Next Frontier
Many doctors and researchers have raised the question that if MS is an immune disease, then there should be something known as an immune marker. For this reason, finding a biomarker that could be identified through a blood test would represent one of the next major frontiers in MS research. Potential biomarkers that could signal the presence of MS have already been identified in some studies. In addition, it has been discovered that MS patients have an elevated level of a protein called serpin A3 in their tears---another possible clue to early detection.
While previous breakthroughs have found ways to slow the progress of MS and perhaps lessen the severity of symptoms, the breakthrough that everyone most wants to find is the one that may heal the brain, not just seal it off from future attacks.
Reversing the Damage Through Cell Stimulation
Dr. Ari J. Green of the University of California at San Francisco is a researcher working to find a way to heal the brain. His mission isn't just to stop the disease, but to also reverse it by finding a way to stimulate cells called oligodendrocytes, which make myelin, to repair the nerves stripped by MS. Instead of injecting stem cells like in Dr. Sadiq's therapy, Dr. Green is trying to strengthen the body to do the repairs itself.
For more information on the recent advancements in multiple sclerosis treatments/research outlined here, check out the Newsweek article; On the Hunt for a Multiple Sclerosis Cure.MS Resources