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Trish Foundation’s PhD Scholar makes

a significant contribution

Australian 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 disorders.

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 disease.

To understand 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.

They discovered 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.

Professor Bernard concludes, ‘Given the access and relative ease of harvesting adipose tissue these data suggest that adipose MSCs may have potential to treat people with MS.’

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.

Earlier this 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 research.      

Trish Foundation & MS Research Australia Working together to find a cure for MS
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