Stem Cell Breakthrough May Lead to MS Treatments
04.08.09, 08:00 PM EDT
Efforts produce human cells that might someday help repair damaged nerves
THURSDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. scientists say they've coaxed human embryonic stem cells into generating cells that might someday be used to repair nerves damaged by multiple sclerosis.
The researchers pushed the stem cells to grow into critical nervous system support cells called oligodendrocytes, according to a report released Thursday.
Oligodendrocytes produce the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers like wire insulation. The findings represent an important step toward embryonic stem cell-based therapies in general, experts say, and also for cell-based therapies for myelination disorders such as MS in particular. At the very least, the findings should lead to a laboratory model of the illness' pathology.
"They are definitely laying the groundwork for being able to apply these cells in terms of a therapeutic application," said Timothy Coetzee, executive director of Fast Forward, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which partially funded the study.
Yet at the same time, he added, "It illustrated for me the critical importance of not assuming that because you can do something with a mouse cell, that a human cell is going to behave in the same manner."
The research was published in the May issue of the journal Development.