NEW ORLEANS—In an uncontrolled, prospective study, repeated intrathecal administration of autologous mesenchymal bone marrow–derived stromal stem cells to treat multiple sclerosis was safe and induced accelerated beneficial effects in some patients.
Of 28 patients with either secondary progressive or relapsing-progressive multiple sclerosis who were experiencing severe clinical deterioration and failure to respond to first- and second-line immunomodulatory treatments, 25 experienced either stable or improved Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) scores following autologous mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) injections. The mean score decreased from 6.76 at study entry to 6.57 at a mean follow-up of 3.6 years, Panayiota Petrou, MD, of Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, and her colleagues reported at the ACTRIMS 2016 Forum.
In addition, 17 patients experienced improvements in at least one functional system of the EDSS, including 14 who experienced improved motor function, five who experienced improved speech or bulbar functions, four who experienced improved urinary function, and six who experienced improved cerebellar function. Eight patients remained stable during the entire follow-up period.
In a prior pilot trial, intrathecal administration of MSCs was shown to be safe and provided “some indications of potentially clinically meaningful beneficial effects on the progression of the disease,” said the investigators.
The current study provides further support for those findings. It included patients who experienced severe clinical deterioration of at least 0.5 points on the EDSS during the year prior to study enrollment, or who had at least one major relapse without sufficient recovery following steroid treatment. Study subjects had a mean age of 56 and mean disease duration of 15.4 years. They received at least two courses and up to 10 injections with 1 million cells/kg; most patients received two injections (eight patients) or three injections (nine patients), and the participants were followed for up to six years. No serious side effects were observed during long-term follow-up. Eight patients experienced headaches or fever in the hours and days after injection; two patients experienced symptoms of encephalopathy that resolved within a few hours. One patient experienced back pain, and one patient had neck rigidity. No long-term side effects were reported.
Immunologic follow-up showed a transient up-regulation of regulatory T cells and down-regulation of the proliferative ability of lymphocytes and of several immune activation surface markers for up to three months.