Transplantation of Stem Cells and Their Derivatives in the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

  • Eric C. Larsen
  • Ian D. DuncanEmail author


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by inflammation, demyelination, and axonal degeneration. Chronic demyelination is believed to result in axon degeneration, leading to long-term disability in the majority of MS patients. However, there are currently no therapies available that will promote myelination. The therapeutic potential of exogenous stem cells in the treatment of a MS is the subject of intensive investigation. The pluripotency and self-renewal properties exhibited by stem cells offer a potentially limitless source of cells that can differentiate into myelinating oligodendrocytes following transplantation into the damaged CNS. Transplanted precursor cells derived from stem cells have been shown to myelinate axons in genetic models of myelin disease and in models of chemically-induced demyelination. However, studies are still ongoing to determine whether stem cell-derived precursor cells are capable of myelinating axons in animal models of MS, an important step in demonstrating the therapeutic potential of transplanted cells in MS. In addition, the method of cell delivery to patients and the selection of MS patients for cell-based repair therapy are issues that are being explored.


Multiple sclerosis Demyelination Axon degeneration Remyelination Stem cells Precursor cells 



The authors would like to thank the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for their support (grant TR-3761), Yoichi Kondo for his helpful advice, and Kristin Boswell for her support.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary MedicineMadisonUSA

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