Xiangya alumnus reports a promising stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis

Sunday, July 6, 2014
Xiangya alumnus reports a promising stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis

       Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system featuring a loss of myelin and scarring of neuronal axons, mostly caused by autoimmunity. It affects more than 2.3 million people globally. Current MS treatments offer no cure but only palliative relief and often cause severe adverse side effects.
       Stem cell therapy using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) has emerged as an attractive therapy for MS due to their immunomodulatory and neuroregenerative properties and their potential to carry engineered therapeutic molecules. MSCs are usually derived from adult tissues such as the umbilical cord and bone marrow. However, the application of adult-tissue derived MSCs has significant limitations such as the limited number of bone marrow donors, variation in quality among different samples, and concerns about potential transmission of pathogens.
       A research team led by a Xiangya alumnus Prof. Ren-He Xu (徐仁和) has identified a novel approach – utilizing human embryonic stem cell (hESC) derived MSCs, called hES-MSCs – to successfully treat a mouse model of MS. Unlike donated adult-tissues, hESCs can be propagated indefinitely in culture to provide an unlimited source of MSCs with a consistent quality. They demonstrate that hES-MSCs offer much better efficacy in the MS model than human adult bone marrow derived MSCs (BM-MSCs) that are currently being tested in clinical trials for MS and many other autoimmune diseases. Their work was published on June 5, 2014 in Stem Cell Reports - the official journal of International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) by Cell Press. This discovery has attracted wide press coverage by USA Today, NBC, Reuters, Yahoo, etc. University of Connecticut, University of Macau, and the Macau government highly praised the success at their websites. Scientists from ImStem Biotechnology, Inc. (a startup company founded by Prof. Xu together with Drs. Xiaofang Wang, Xinghua Pan, and Michael Men), University of Connecticut, and Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. collaborated on this project.
        Prof. Xu was the director of University of Connecticut Stem Cell Core and recently joined University of Macau as a professor of its new Faculty of Health Sciences. More information is available at his laboratory website: https://fhs.umac.mo/staff/academic-staff/xu-ren-he/