Stem Cell Therapies for Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system characterized by demyelination and axonal degeneration. MS patients typically present with a relapsing-remitting (RR) disease course, manifesting as sporadic attacks of neurological symptoms including ataxia, fatigue, and sensory impairment. While there are several effective disease-modifying therapies able to address the inflammatory relapses associated with RRMS, most patients will inevitably advance to a progressive disease course marked by a gradual and irreversible accrual of disabilities. Therapeutic intervention in progressive MS (PMS) suffers from a lack of well-characterized biological targets and, hence, a dearth of successful drugs. The few medications approved for the treatment of PMS are typically limited in their efficacy to active forms of the disease, have little impact on slowing degeneration, and fail to promote repair. In looking to address these unmet needs, the multifactorial therapeutic benefits of stem cell therapies are particularly compelling. Ostensibly providing neurotrophic support, immunomodulation and cell replacement, stem cell transplantation holds substantial promise in combatting the complex pathology of chronic neuroinflammation. Herein, we explore the current state of preclinical and clinical evidence supporting the use of stem cells in treating PMS and we discuss prospective hurdles impeding their translation into revolutionary regenerative medicines.