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University of Adelaide research raises hope for multiple sclerosis treatment

A POTENTIAL new treatment for multiple sclerosis lies within modified adult stem cells, University of Adelaide researchers say.

The researchers hope using stem cells from fat tissue - to send cells with anti-inflammatory properties directly to the damaged site in the central nervous system - will be able to treat the autoimmune disease.

Director of the Centre for Molecular Pathology, Professor Shaun McColl, said treatments for MS needed to control the immune response and repair the damage caused to the fatty myelin sheaths that protect the nerves.

"We've already shown that adult stem cells have great potential to both control the immune response and promote repair of the central nervous system. It also prevents further damage," Prof McColl said.

"But the trick is getting the stem cells to the right location where they can perform this function."

MS is a progressive disease in which the body attacks the central nervous system, causing nerve inflammation and scarring. It results in the impairment of motor, sensory and cognitive function. When stem cells are injected into the blood system, very few cross the blood/brain barrier into the central nervous system.

Lead investigator Dr Iain Comerford said it was hoped the manipulated adult stem cells could cross that barrier, targeting the inflammation site and repairing the damaged myelin.

"It involves promoting stem-cell migration to the central nervous system by manipulating receptors on the surface of the stem cells that control cell movement," Dr Comerford said.

"We are also modifying the stem cells to suppress the immune response by introducing molecules that regulate inflammation," Dr Comerford added.

At the end of the three-year project, the researchers aim to show they can successfully modify the stem cells to effectively reach the central nervous system and inhibit inflammation from the disease.