Stem cell therapy

Stem cells are cells that can both reproduce themselves and develop into many different cell types. There is a potential to use stem cells to treat different types of MS, but research into stem cells is still at the very early stages.

Current phase of trial: II/III

Type of MS: highly active, severe MS (either relapsing remitting MS or progressive MS)

Research into: preventing and repairing damage caused by MS

How do they work?

Researchers believe that stem cells may, one day, be used to treat MS.  There are two different ways in which they might be useful:

  • to repair or replace damaged tissue in the body. The most realistic aim for stem cells would be the repair of MS damage in the brain and spinal cord through re-growth of myelin and protection of nerve fibres from damage.
  • to replace the immune system (thought to misfire in MS) and in that way prevent further damage in MS.

For more information about stem cell therapy see the booklet Stem cell therapies in MS.

Latest research

There are several clinical trials currently being conducted in Europe testing stem cell treatment for MS.

A phase II clinical trial is currently being planned world-wide. 

The trial will test the potential of mesenchymal stem cells (a specialised type of stem cell in the bone marrow) as a treatment for people with highly active forms of MS. 

A trial site in London has been funded by the MS Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation and will aim to recruit 13 people. 

This will be one of 15-20 trial sites world-wide that will involve around 150 people. 

Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Multiple Sclerosis is a phase I/II trial which has just completed in Cambridge and London, UK. It is evaluating the effectiveness of bone marrow (mesenchymal) stem cells for use in ten people with relapsing remitting MS. Results are expected to be released in late 2011.

When are they likely to become available?

It will be a matter of years before scientifically approved stem cell therapies are available.

Page last updated: 16 May 2014

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