How Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Can Do For MS

by | May 23, 2024 | Autoimmune, Stem Cell Therapy | 0 comments

Autoimmune diseases are intricate and often mystifying health conditions. They often manifest through ordinary symptoms such as fatigue and body aches, which can make it difficult to differentiate them from more minor health conditions. On the other hand, experiencing some of these symptoms also doesn’t necessarily indicate a serious health issue.

In autoimmune diseases, the body’s natural defense systems, the immune system starts, mistakes your normal cells for foreign invaders.1 Your body starts attacking itself, like joints, skins and other cells in your body.

A particularly challenging autoimmune disease affecting younger individuals is multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is characterized by the immune system damaging the nervous system, leading to various neurological problems.

What is MS?

In MS, the immune system, which normally defends us against harmful organisms like viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the myelin in the central nervous system.2 Myelin is a crucial protective covering for nerve fibers, ensuring efficient signal transmission between cells

Being a chronic disease, MS can affect people differently. While some experience mild or almost no symptoms, others face progressively worsening symptoms. Early signs of MS often include vision problems (like blurriness and double vision), muscle weakness, tingling, numbness, coordination difficulties, bladder issues, and dizziness.2 In more severe cases, symptoms like muscle weakness may advance, sometimes necessitating the use of a cane for mobility.

There are four main classifications of MS. Each reflects the progression of the disease and symptoms over time

  • Relapsing remitting MS: This common initial diagnosis in MS features cycles of remission, where no significant disease activity occurs, alternating with episodes of more intense symptoms, called attacks. These quiet periods can span weeks, months, or years.
  • Secondary progressive MS: In this type, people with a history of relapse-remitting MS start to experience gradual, steadily worsening symptoms and functional decline. Most untreated relapsing-remitting MS cases progress to this form.
  • Primary progressive MS: This is a less common form of MS, and is marked by a continuous increase in symptoms right from the start of the disease. There are no distinct relapses or remissions, only slight, temporary symptom relief.
  • Progressive-relapsing MS: This is the rarest form of the four types. It involves a steady progression of symptoms from onset, peppered with acute relapses that may occur at various times throughout the course of the disease.

There are also some rare and unusual forms of MS. These include:

  • Marburg variant MS: Also known as malignant MS, this form of MS progresses very quickly. It causes a rapid decline in how the body functions and brings on serious symptoms. This type of MS is extremely severe and can lead to major disability or even death soon after it starts.
  • Balo’s concentric sclerosis: This type of MS progresses quickly and causes a specific kind of damage to myelin, the protective covering of nerves. This can been seen in MRI scans as ring-like patterns, which are a key feature in this type of MS.

What are UC-MSCs

Stem cells are the foundational cells in our body, like a universal key that unlocks the potential for all other cell types. Their primary job is to replace dying cells and repair damaged tissues, a task we rely on from birth, thanks to our natural reserve of stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) stand out among various stem cell types due to their remarkable versatility—they can turn into bone, cartilage, and fat cells, and have the unique ability to continually renew themselves, maintaining a stable population essential for medical treatments.3

MSCs are mainly found in bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and fat tissue. Of these, umbilical cord MSCs (UC-MSCs) are often more effective, growing quickly and capable of developing into a wide range of cell types, crucial for repairing tissues.4 They also have several additional benefits: they’re easy to collect, carry lower infection and tumor risks, are less likely to cause immune responses, and are ethically more acceptable. These advantages make UC-MSCs a promising choice in various medical settings.

Currently, MS treatments only involve medications that help temporarily reduce and manage symptoms. These include steroids to combat flare-ups, disease modifying drugs, and medications that target specific symptoms. Even though these help reduce attacks and slow the progression of the disease, they don’t help restore myelin or regenerate the damage already done.

How UC-MSCs can be used to fight MS

To improve the battle against MS and its advancement, it’s crucial to develop treatments that do more than just address the symptoms. UC-MSCs are showing remarkable promise in this area, particularly in their ability to repair myelin, significantly improving MS symptoms and decreasing the disease’s progression.

Recent studies have begun exploring the impact of UC-MSCs in MS patients. Notably, a one-week IV infusion of UC-MSCs has led to substantial improvements in disability ratings. This progress includes enhanced mobility and walking, better control over bladder and bowel functions, and improved sexual health.5 What’s particularly striking is that, a year after treatment, the lesions in the brain usually seen in MS were no longer present in MRI scans.

When compared to stem cells derived from bone marrow and adipose tissue, UC-MSCs stand out due to their fast multiplication rate, making them more effective in repairing damaged cells. They are also more stable and less likely to trigger an immune response.6 In MS-specific studies, UC-MSCs not only reduced nerve damage and inflammation but also showed a notable decrease in MS attacks. These outcomes, coupled with observed myelin restoration, suggest that UC-MSCs might have the potential to reverse MS progression and symptoms.

UC-MSCs can be administered to patients in two main ways: directly into the spine (intrathecally) or into the bloodstream (intravenously, IV). In a study comparing these two methods in MS patients suffering from muscle stiffness, significant improvements were observed in both groups after 6 months.7 However, the group receiving spinal administration began to see benefits earlier. Both groups had significant improvements in muscle function and elasticity. The benefits are linked to the immune effects of UC-MSCs and their ability to regenerate myelin and restore nerve function.

What this all means

MS is a challenging neurological disorder, often leaving patients with significant physical and cognitive impairments. As an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system, current treatments are temporary and not always effective. UC-MSCs are an exciting new treatment that is showing promise as a longer-term solution for combatting MS. Research highlights their ability in not only improving motor and bodily functions in patients but also can potentially restore the myelin that is characteristically damaged in the disease. UC-MSCs come with the added advantage of being anti-inflammatory and don’t trigger immune responses making them safe and effective with minimal side effects. These findings pave the way for an exciting new era for MS treatment, offering hope for those living with this complex condition.


  1. Orbai, A.-M. (2022, July 22). What Are Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease? Johns Hopkins Medicine- Health.
  3. Stem Cell Basics | STEM Cell Information. National Institutes of Health.
  4. Stem Cells: Types, What They Are & What They Do. Cleveland Clinic.
  5. Riordan, N.H., Morales, I., Fernández, G., Allen, N., Fernot, N.E., Leckrone, M.E., Markovish, D.J., Mansfield, D., Avila, D., Patel, A.N., Kesari, S., Rodriguez, J.P. 2018. Clinical feasibility of umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. J Transl Med 16, 57 (2018).
  6. Alanazi, A., Alassiri, M., Jawdat, D., & Almalik, Y. (2022). Mesenchymal stem cell therapy: A review of clinical trials for multiple sclerosis. Regenerative therapy, 21, 201–209.
  7. Petriv, T., Tatarchuk, M., Tsymbaliyk, Y., Rybachuk, O., Tsymbaliuk, Y., Tsymbaliuk, V., 2022. Abstract 14 Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stromal/Stem Cells Application for Spasticity Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis. Stem Cells Translational Medicine. 11:1, S16.

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