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Embryonic stem cells offer new treatment for multiple sclerosis

Date:
June 16, 2014
Source:
University of Connecticut
Summary:
A novel approach to treating multiple sclerosis using human embryonic stem cells appears to offer better treatment results than stem cells derived from human adult bone marrow, scientists say. An advantage of human embryonic stem cells is that they can be propagated indefinitely in lab cultures and provide an unlimited source of high quality mesenchymal stem cells -- the kind of stem cell needed for treatment of MS.

ImStem Biotechnology’s Xiaofang Wang, seated, and Ren-He Xu.
Credit: Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Photo

Scientists in the University of Connecticut's Technology Incubation Program have identified a novel approach to treating multiple sclerosis (MS) using human embryonic stem cells, offering a promising new therapy for more than 2.3 million people suffering from the debilitating disease.

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The researchers demonstrated that the embryonic stem cell therapy significantly reduced MS disease severity in animal models, and offered better treatment results than stem cells derived from human adult bone marrow.

The study was led by ImStem Biotechnology Inc. of Farmington, Conn., in conjunction with UConn Health Professor Joel Pachter, Assistant Professor Stephen Crocker, and Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) Inc. of Massachusetts. ImStem was founded in 2012 by UConn doctors Xiaofang Wang and Ren-He Xu, along with Yale University doctor Xinghua Pan and investor Michael Men.

"The cutting-edge work by ImStem, our first spinoff company, demonstrates the success of Connecticut's Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine funding program in moving stem cells from bench to bedside," says Professor Marc Lalande, director of the UConn's Stem Cell Institute.

The research was supported by a $1.13 million group grant from the state of Connecticut's Stem Cell Research Program that was awarded to ImStem and Professor Pachter's lab.

"Connecticut's investment in stem cells, especially human embryonic stem cells, continues to position our state as a leader in biomedical research," says Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. "This new study moves us one step closer to a stem cell-based clinical product that could improve people's lives."

The researchers compared eight lines of adult bone marrow stem cells to four lines of human embryonic stem cells. All of the bone marrow-related stem cells expressed high levels of a protein molecule called a cytokine that stimulates autoimmunity and can worsen the disease. All of the human embryonic stem cell-related lines expressed little of the inflammatory cytokine.

Another advantage of human embryonic stem cells is that they can be propagated indefinitely in lab cultures and provide an unlimited source of high quality mesenchymal stem cells -- the kind of stem cell needed for treatment of MS, the researchers say. This ability to reliably grow high quality mesenchymal stem cells from embryonic stem cells represents an advantage over adult bone marrow stem cells, which must be obtained from a limited supply of healthy donors and are of more variable quality.

"Groundbreaking research like this furthering opportunities for technology ventures demonstrates how the University acts as an economic engine for the state and regional economy," says Jeff Seemann, UConn's vice president for research.

The findings also offer potential therapy for other autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type-1 diabetes, according to Xu, a corresponding author on the study and one of the few scientists in the world to have generated new human embryonic stem cell lines.

There is no cure for MS, a chronic neuroinflammatory disease in which the body's immune system eats away at the protective sheath called myelin that covers the nerves. Damage to myelin interferes with communication between the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. Current MS treatments only offer pain relief, and slow the progression of the disease by suppressing inflammation.

"The beauty of this new type of mesenchymal stem cells is their remarkable higher efficacy in the MS model," says Wang, chief technology officer of ImStem.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Connecticut. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Xiaofang Wang, Erin A. Kimbrel, Kumiko Ijichi, Debayon Paul, Adam S. Lazorchak, Jianlin Chu, Nicholas A. Kouris, Gregory J. Yavanian, Shi-Jiang Lu, Joel S. Pachter, Stephen J. Crocker, Robert Lanza, Ren-He Xu. Human ESC-Derived MSCs Outperform Bone Marrow MSCs in the Treatment of an EAE Model of Multiple Sclerosis. Stem Cell Reports, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2014.04.020

Cite This Page:

University of Connecticut. "Embryonic stem cells offer new treatment for multiple sclerosis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616141549.htm>.
University of Connecticut. (2014, June 16). Embryonic stem cells offer new treatment for multiple sclerosis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616141549.htm
University of Connecticut. "Embryonic stem cells offer new treatment for multiple sclerosis." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616141549.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

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