Hopeful Cord Blood Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

Our central nervous system is covered in myelin, a “fatty white substance” that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers that are responsible for transmitting information to the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Multiple sclerosis attacks and destroys the myelin and as these nerve cells deteriorate, symptoms of MS such as “numbness, loss of vision, fatigue and tremors” start to occur.

There are different phases or “courses” of MS most often diagnosed by the frequency of MS symptoms, the amount of time in between them, and the severity of those symptoms. Regardless of the diagnosis, there is currently no cure for MS.

“Currently doctors treat symptoms of MS with a combination of medications. However, medications don’t repair any damage to the nervous system caused by MS, and they will not cure the disease.”

New research suggests the stem cells found in cord blood can improve the immune system’s ability to support the body, and regenerate damaged nervous system tissue. It is reported that cord blood is safer, quicker and easier to match compared to bone marrow cells used in the past.

Gianvito Martino, director of neuroscience at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy, said there were two types of stem cells already being used in patients, both from blood. They were haematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells.

“They seem to help the immune system to block the body’s reaction against itself,” Professor Martino said. “You can just inject them intravenously and you don’t need immuno-suppression or any therapy to avoid rejection.”

While they seemed to block further damage from the disease, they did not repair nerve cells already damaged.

Some advantages of cord blood treatment are:

  • Cord blood stem cells don’t require an exact match for a successful transplant, so patients using these cells have more treatment options
  • Stem cells derived from cord blood are the most anti-inflammatory source of cells in the body
  • Cord blood is painless to collect, unlike bone marrow, which can harm donors
  • Cord blood may be the most potent source of cells in the body, even compared to bone marrow
  • Cord blood stem cells are in clinical trials for MS treatment.

Treating MS with stem cells found in umbilical cord blood is another reason families are banking their baby’s cord blood and tissue.


National Multiple Sclerosis Society, What is MS?, http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS