PodBlog: Status of Stem Cell Therapies for MS
Episode 55 of the MSDF podcast features Michael Levy, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who discusses the status of regenerative stem cell therapies for multiple sclerosis.
Episode 55 of the MSDF podcast is out. Check it out. The podcast features an interview with Michael Levy, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who discusses the status of regenerative stem cell therapies for multiple sclerosis with host Dan Keller.
In a recent review (Levy et al., 2015), Levy explained why researchers are testing stem cell therapies:
The primary goal for regeneration in demyelinating conditions and trauma is to remyelinate otherwise healthy, intact axons. To that end, several companies and academic groups have developed stem cells designed for transplantation into the area of the demyelinated lesion, intended to differentiate in response to the local environment and produce functional myelin. While animal studies have suggested this may be possible, no human study has yet definitively demonstrated this objective.
The same podcast points out updates in our Drug-Development Pipeline. For example, one update reflects the finding that ocrelizumab slows disease progression in primary progressive MS, the first drug to do so, as described in the drugmaker’s news release.
Another update reflects a new meta-analysis by the evidence-based medicine mavens at the Cochrane Multiple Sclerosis group. It compares 39 different clinical trials involving more than 25,000 patients to rank benefits and acceptability of 15 different MS drugs. Doctors and patients need even better information to make decisions, the authors conclude. They call for more randomized studies directly comparing active agents, no more placebo-controlled studies, and long-term follow-up of all drug studies.
In our picks of papers of the week, one study comes from the Italian registry of pediatric MS patients treated with natalizumab. Researchers evaluated 101 boys and girls. Natalizumab was safe, well tolerated, and effective, they report. Time on the drug varied, but the overall mean was about three years. Most of the patients switched because of a poor response to first-line drugs, such as interferon β and glatiramer acetate. The patients’ sera were assessed for anti-JC virus antibodies to prevent the rare but dangerous brain infection associated with natalizumab.
Two other studies caught our eye this week. One goes into the new insights from live imaging in the central nervous systems of mice. The authors outline potential applications that could lead to therapies to protect or restore myelin. Another study asked whether spasticity of lower limbs could be helped with anodal transcranial direct current stimulation in 20 MS patients. The answer is no, based on results of the small randomized double-blind clinical trial. This is not to be confused with another noninvasive technique that seems to reduce spasticity, called transcranial magnetic stimulation.
The MSDF team is attending this week’s ECTRIMS meeting in Barcelona, Spain. If you, too, will be at the conference and would like to meet with us—or if you’re interested in being interviewed about your research for a future podcast—please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Carol Cruzan Morton has assumed the role of executive editor at MS Discovery Forum. The longtime journalist will draw on her deep science reporting and writing experience. She will build on the great record established at MSDF—the podcast interviews, data visualizations, extensive drug database, and of course the research news and thoughtful perspectives that are helping to shape new futures for people with MS and related conditions. We're always looking for ways that MS Discovery Forum can best serve the MS research community to spark new ideas, collaborations, and better understanding of myelin disorders. We’re excited about the next era at MS Discovery Forum.
Disclosures and sources of funding
Podcast feature interview: Levy receives research support from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Guthy Jackson Charitable Foundation, Acorda, Sanofi, NeuralStem, and Genentech, and serves as a consultant for Chugai Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline, and MedImmune.