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Assessment of bone marrow-derived cellular therapy in progressive multiple sclerosis (ACTiMuS)

Professor Neil Scolding, Dr Claire Rice, University of Bristol, UK

Most cells in the body are dedicated to performing a function associated with a particular organ eg a skin cell or a liver cell. Stem cells are different in that they can divide to make a copy of themselves and generate a more specialised cell. Under the right conditions, they have the potential to develop into cells with special functions such as nerve cells in the brain or muscle cells in the heart. Furthermore, it is increasingly appreciated that stem cells have other important roles in injury and repair beyond replacing lost cells, including protection of nerve cells in the brain and influencing the response of the immune system. Understandably, there has been a great deal of interest in their use as a possible therapy for MS.

The bone marrow is a rich source of various types of stem cells which could potentially repair and protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord in MS.

The two year study will involve 80 people with primary or secondary progressive MS. Stem cells will be collected from participants' bone marrow. In the first year, one group will have their stem cells reintroduced by infusion into a vein whilst the placebo group will receive a blood transfusion. In the second year, the groups will be reversed. Results of the trial are expected in 2017.

The study will look for changes in nerve conduction inside the brain and spinal cord. It will also use a range of other measures to study alterations in disease progression, in particular, extensive and innovative MRI techniques performed in collaboration with colleagues in Nottingham. The study builds on a previous small safety trial in Bristol that suggested this approach to treatment with stem cells might have an effect on progression.

Interest in this type of research is high and this study is already oversubscribed. Researchers are not looking for more participants.

Further information about this study

Working with the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, the MS Trust has been able to provide £150,000 towards the MRI scanning that is vital to this research.

MS Trust Research: funding pioneering stem cell research in Bristol

Claire Rice, NIHR Clinical Lecturer & Consultant Neurologist

Dr Claire Rice gives more information about the study being carried out at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol.

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