Stem cell research updates from EU-funded projects

Research spotlights

Scientific research papers, summarized for non-scientists.

New strategy for brain repair in multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects over 400,000 people in the EU, causing problems with vision, movement and speech. In MS, the protective layer that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord, called myelin, is destroyed. As the disease progresses, this damage often goes unchecked because the regenerative process for replacing myelin (‘remyelination’) fails. There are currently no approved therapies that tackle this problem by promoting remyelination. Researchers hope a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience will contribute to the development of new therapies by helping to explain how remyelination is controlled. The scientists studied immune cells called macrophages, which are involved in remyelination. They found that the macrophages must become anti-infammatory for remyelination to proceed, and identified a protein released by macrophages which encourages remyelination.

Mesoangioblasts can be derived from reprogrammed cells and may be an effective future treatment for muscular dystrophies

Summary 

A recent study has shown that muscle stem cells called mesoangioblasts can be grown in the laboratory from induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS cells). Scientists think that mesoangioblasts transplants may be an effective treatment for muscular dystrophy but currently these cells have to be taken from donor who is a tissue ‘match’ for the patient, which is relatively rare.As IPS cells are grown in the lab from a patient’s own muscle cells this could potentially overcome the problem of having to find a ‘matched’ donor.

Clinical trial shows combination therapy of nitric oxide delivery and an anti-inflammatory drug are safe for long-term treatment of adults with muscular dystrophy

Summary

Muscular dystrophies cause muscle breakdown, weakness, and can lead to paralysis and death. The only current treatment that is effective is corticosteroids, shown to increase muscle strength. However, we do not know if it is effective in the long term, and there are side effects that limit its use. A combination of an anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen, and a nitric oxide delivery drug, isosorbide dinitrate, have been shown in mice to improve muscle health.