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Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune diseases develop when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy cells and tissues. In some cases, an autoimmune disease may affect multiple systems. Common autoimmune conditions include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.

Research has found that stem cells could work as a catalyst for the modification, and therefore the restoration, of immune system responses. Stem cells can also aid in the production of anti-inflammatory processes that could help slow down progression of autoimmune conditions.

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease where the immune cells attack the myelin sheath including nerve cells from the brain and spinal cord. When the nerve cells are demyelinated their function is disrupted leading to severe physical or cognitive problems. Mesenchymal stem cells, found in many tissues in the body including adipose and bone marrow, have the ability to differentiate into different types of cells such as nerve cells and oligodendrocytes. Oligodendrocytes create the myelin sheath around the axons. Studies have shown that demyelination was improved after the transplantation of stem cells, suggesting that stem cell therapy is a potential treatment for MS patients. In addition, the cells may have an immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effect which leads to a recovery in locomotion function. Preclinical trials have also observed the migration of mesenchymal stem cells into the inflamed central nervous system (CNS).  The cells mayinduce the production of neuroprotective agents which help to preserve the axons in the CNS.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Stem cells have the potential to repair cartilage and joint tissue. MSCs may release immunosuppressive factors which help alleviate and avoid further progression of the disease. In addition, stem cell therapy may promote tissue repair in damaged joints caused by chronic inflammation. Mesenchymal stem cells also induce the production of T regulatory cells which may help to regulate autoimmune diseases. Recent studies suggest that some patients may achieve stable remission after stem cell treatment, due to the ‘resetting’ of the immune system.

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Stem Cells may help to improve skin elasticity and recovery of some functions severely impaired by scleroderma. MSCs exhibit anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory properties, and may help to reset the immune system.  This may lead to clinical improvements or slowing the progression of autoimmune diseases like scleroderma. T-cells help to regulate immune responses and may be increased with stem cell therapy which could lead to autoimmune disease remission. In addition, a therapeutic benefit at the site of inflammation may be seen due to MSCs releasing cytokines and growth factors that result in local anti-inflammatory effects.

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