MS Research Roundup: May 16, 2014
Stem Cells Help Mice Walk; Cooling the Immune Response
MS Research Roundup collects items of interest to multiple sclerosis researchers from around the Web. Send us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stem Cells Help Mice Walk
In an animal model of MS, paralyzed mice walked again less than 2 weeks after a spinal injection of human embryonic neural precursor cells. Recovery continued even after mice’s immune system rejected the stem cells, California and Utah researchers reported May 15 in the journal Stem Cell Reports. The study was meant to better understand the problem of stem cell rejection, but now the team wants to know how the cells shut down the autoimmune inflammation and stimulate remyelination and repair. "This result opens up a whole new area of research for us to figure out why it worked," said co-senior author Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. In the press release, the researchers credited the preparation method for coaxing human stem cells into neural precursor cells. "Even though the stem cell therapy worked in mice, we can't assume that it will work in humans," Loring told MSDF in an email. "In the next year, we will be focusing on finding out exactly why the cells worked so well in mice, and using that information to start to develop a human therapy." Loring has spoken out about the dangers of unproven stem cell treatments. (Belfast Telegraph, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine , Orange County Register, Salt Lake Tribune, Scripps Research Institute, Stem Cell Reports)
Cooling the Immune Response
Splashing around in ice water and rolling in the snow are rituals more common to daredevils living at higher latitudes, but researchers in the Netherlands adopted the methods to study how the nervous system influences the immune response. The results, published May 5 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that people can learn to modulate their immune responses. A small group of healthy Dutch subjects followed a bizarre regimen of cold exposure, meditation, and breathing patterns that alternated between hyperventilation and breath-holding. The body-stressing routine tamped down immune response of the healthy volunteers when compared to a control group. The findings raise hopes for a behavioral intervention to ease suffering of people with chronic inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis. But hold off on your iceberg surfing. First author Matthijs Kox of Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen suspects that the breathing techniques were the biggest contributor to the results. And they have only investigated short-term inflammation. (Los Angeles Times, Nature News, PNAS)