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Large-Scale Research Using Stem Cells to Treat Multiple Sclerosis Begins

During a large-scale clinical trial in the UK the researchers will examine the safety of stem cell treatment of multiple sclerosis. Scientists hope that stem cell therapy will slow the progression of disease or even reverse it.

The trials which will involve about 150 patients throughout the Europe will begin later this year. At the same time, there is solid preclinical evidence of efficacy of stem cell treatment of multiple sclerosis, obtained by experiments on animals and in test tubes.

During the test, the patients will be treated with their own - autologous - stem cells. At first, bone marrow stem cells will be gathered from the patients, then cultivated in the laboratory, and afterwards injected to the patients’ blood. It is expected that stem cells will migrate to the brain and repair the damage caused by the disease.

The study is co-funded by the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society hoping that it would help to develop reliable treatments of multiple sclerosis with stem cells, which would reduce the attractiveness of foreign, and, according to the Society, unproven methods of stem cell treating of multiple sclerosis.

Scientists hope to use stem cells to protect nerve cells from autoimmune attack and contribute to the restoration of damaged tissues. Clinical trials of efficacy and safety will begin in 6 months and will take five years, including the analysis of trials results. After that, one more phase of more wide-ranging studies may be needed.

At the moment, multiple sclerosis affects about 3 million people in the world. Medicines alleviate symptoms of the disease, but do not stop its progression.