Current therapies that treat ongoing MS are not effective for everyone, and are not able to repair or regenerate the lesions containing damaged myelin tissue, which surrounds the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. New treatment options are of crucial importance to help reverse the damage caused by MS relapses and to prevent accumulation of disability and illness progression.
Cell based therapies, such as the use of adult human stem cells, hold great promise for the treatment of MS, but they are still in a very early stage of investigation. Vast improvements to these approaches are required before they will be in a position to be widely used as an MS treatment. Currently, stem cells can be isolated from a range of sources including bone marrow, fatty tissue, and dental pulp.
During her vacation scholarship, Ms Wilson will be working with Dr Comerford at the University of Adelaide to study stem cells isolated from human dental pulp, aiming to determine if these cells can be manipulated to express certain receptors that control the activation of the immune system, known as CCR2. The team expect that the stem cells expressing CCR2 will have greater ability to enter into the brain and spinal cord and may inhibit inflammation and encourage the repair of damaged tissue.
If successful, this project may provide a promising new target for the development of future therapies to optimise stem-cell based treatments for MS.
The team have recently shown that dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) isolated from human dental pulp, when administered to mice with an MS-like disease, inhibit the symptoms of disease. They are now are investigating whether these cells could be modified to express CCR2. This will enable immune cells to enter the brain and spinal cord where they may promote tissue repair and inhibit inflammation.
In this project, Jasmine was able to successfully modify the cells to express CCR2 and that this significantly improved the migration of stem cells towards an inflammatory molecule known as CCL2, which is present in the brain and spinal cord during MS. Further results indicated that using this mechanism, these stem cells were travelling into the brain and spinal cord.
Finally, Jasmine assessed whether transplanting the stem cells into mice with MS-like illness would affect disease progression and recovery. Analysis of this work is ongoing to assess if this alters the outcome of disease over the long term. Initial analyses suggest a trend towards recovery in mice treated with the cells. The experiments currently underway will comprehensively assess this question and determine whether these modified stem cells represent a new target for the development of future therapies.
Updated: 24 April 2015
Updated: 02 January, 2015