Stem cells are a unique resource, providing in principle access to unlimited quantities of cells that can give rise to a variety of more specialised cells. Natalie Payne was a Trish MS Research Foundation Scholar at Monash University investigating the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells.
In the first instance, Natalie characterised the properties of the stem cells that could eventually be used to treat MS. This is an important prerequisite for the use of stem cells as a treatment in humans.
But does stem cell therapy actually work? Further research is assessing the treatment potential of stem cells in animals with an MS-like condition. Natalie has been evaluating the ability of these stem cells to suppress disease activity in both chronic progressive and relapsing animal MS. She was also using sophisticated live animal imaging techniques to track the fate of transplanted stem cells.
Stem cells have been shown to behave as beacons that can specifically home in on sites of inflammation, calm the immune response and enhance innate repair. However, it may turn out to be that by exploiting these homing properties, stem cells will be even more beneficial if used as a delivery system for targeted treatments.
At just over half way through completing her PhD training, Natalie had already written on the promise of stem cell and regenerative therapies for MS in two journals, given a presentation at a conference and presented three posters.
Natalie’s research was completed in 2010.
"I feel very privileged to be the recipient of the Trish Foundation Postgraduate Research Scholarship. MS is a devastating disease for which there is no cure and this scholarship has not only given me the opportunity to pursue a career in scientific research but also contribute towards finding new treatments that will help the millions of people that suffer from MS worldwide.”
“My research is being carried out at the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories as part of Professor Claude Bernard's group. Over the past 30 years Claude has made significant discoveries that have helped us to understand more about MS. The work our group is undertaking, which involves the use of stem-cell based therapies to reverse the effects of MS, is very exciting. Being such a competitive field, I feel very lucky that I have the chance to work with Claude, an internationally renowned scientist who is at the forefront of MS research."
– Natalie Payne, Biological Sciences (Hons) graduate and recipient of Trish Foundation Postgratuate Research Scholarship.
Breaking news October 2012:
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.