Trish Foundation’s PhD Scholar makes
a significant contribution
researchers have discovered that stem cells derived from fat tissue are more
effective in reaching the brain and spinal cord in a mouse model of MS than
stem cells from bone marrow.
The research was
conducted by Dr Natalie Payne, Dr Christopher Siatskas and their colleagues in
Professor Claude Bernard’s laboratory at Monash University, Melbourne and involved
the testing of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) for their potential to treat an
MS-like disease in mice.
The results of
the study have been published online in the journal Cell Transplantation.
Dr Natalie Payne
has previously been a recipient of an MSRA PhD scholarship, funded by the Trish
Foundation. These current results arose from work commenced during her PhD
studies. Dr Siatskas and Professor Bernard are also recipients of MSRA funding
and Professor Bernard was a recipient in the Trish Foundation’s inaugural round
of funding in 2002.
Stem cells are
‘blank slates’ that have the potential to develop into a multitude of more
specialised cells. They have also been shown to home to sites of tissue
injury and inflammation where they not only modulate the immune response, but may
be neuroprotective and enhance repair.
MSCs are a type
of stem cell that were originally isolated from bone marrow, but have since
been discovered in other tissues such as umbilical cord and fat (adipose)
tissue. International studies suggest that MSCs may be useful in treating
conditions such as heart disease and other autoimmune and inflammatory
In this current
study, the team investigated the potential of MSCs to reduce the impact of
experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE) in mice. EAE in mice causes an
MS-like disease that has proved to be a useful model for understanding certain
aspects of the disease and conducting initial testing of new MS treatments.
Dr Payne and her
colleagues found that in a test tube, MSCs derived from bone marrow were most
effective at suppressing the activation and proliferation of immune cells when
compared to MSCs from adipose or umbilical cord. However, when they
transplanted the three different types of cells into mice with EAE it was the
adipose derived MSCs that had the most significant effect on the course of the
this difference better, the researchers investigated where the MSCs ended up in
the bodies of the mice using a visible tracking technique. This revealed that
the adipose MSCs were able to migrate into the brain and spinal cord, whereas
the bone marrow MSCs did not get into the central nervous system.
that this is because only the adipose MSCs carry a specialised receptor, or ‘key’,
on the cell surface that allows them to cross over from the blood into the
central nervous system.
concludes, ‘Given the access and relative ease of harvesting adipose tissue
these data suggest that adipose MSCs may have potential to treat people with
There are still
many questions, however, regarding the potential and safety of stem cells to
treat human MS and research remains in the early experimental stages.
year, Prof Bernard and his collaborators in the USA received a major grant
co-funded by the Californian Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Australian
National Health and Medical Research Council to pursue pre-clinical studies
into the potential of another type of stem cell, known as iPS cells, for
treating MS. Read more about this