The Research Behind Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Autoimmune Conditions
In a previous blog, we explored the fascinating research on using Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) for neurological disorders. Today, we’ll cover autoimmune diseases with a rundown of the groundbreaking research being done on using MSC therapy for autoimmune disorders, and how the immunomodulatory properties of MSCs make them highly promising in the field of autoimmune disease treatment.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Inflammation: Incredible Potential
MSCs stand out among other types of stem cells due to their immunomodulatory capabilities. While they still possess the differentiation capabilities often associated with stem cells, their remarkable capacity to help regulate the immune system, particularly in combating inflammation, is what makes them such a hot topic in the field of autoimmune disease research.
MSCs were first reported to have immunomodulatory properties back in the early 2000s, and while this was initially met with skepticism the immunomodulatory properties of MSCs have since been thoroughly documented and replicated to the point that nearly half of all ongoing clinical trials involving MSCs are dedicated to immune and inflammation mediation diseases.¹
The potential of MSCs in this particular field of research lies in their ability to address the driving force behind many of the debilitating symptoms associated with the autoimmune diseases we cover in this blog: inflammation.
Understanding the Mechanism: How MSCs Inhibit Inflammation
It’s important to understand that immunomodulation and anti-inflammation often go hand in hand. When we say MSCs are able to modulate the immune system, what we’re also saying is that MSCs can be an incredibly powerful tool for fighting inflammation.
The process by which MSCs modulate inflammation is complex, but the simple explanation is that MSCs can inhibit the appearance and activation of specific immune cells responsible for inflammation.
MSCs can migrate to sites of inflammation in the body and secrete factors that signal surrounding cells to reduce their inflammatory response, which could be very beneficial for alleviating symptoms of autoimmune diseases that are known to cause debilitating cases of inflammation.
With how MSCs help inhibit inflammation in mind, let’s look at some of the research behind using MSCs for several inflammation-linked conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Exploring the Research: Arthritis
Arthritis is a catch-all term for joint inflammation, so it’s no surprise that one of the most promising areas for MSC therapy is in alleviating the symptoms caused by the various forms of arthritis.
Arthritis can be broadly categorized into two types: inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Inflammatory arthritis refers to joint damage caused by various forms of autoimmune dysfunction, while osteoarthritis is joint damage caused by wear and tear.
Inflammatory arthritis describes a group of autoimmune diseases affecting the joints, with the most common form being rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Conventional RA treatment works to limit the immune system’s ability to attack the joints by inhibiting an individual’s immune system as a whole. As a side effect, individuals are often subjected to an increased risk of developing severe infections or even tumors, highlighting the need for a safer, more effective approach.³
Clinical trials into using MSCs to treat RA are noticeably less abundant than with osteoarthritis, but that’s not to say using MSCs to treat RA is without promise.¹ RA is, after all, an inflammatory autoimmune disease, so the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of MSCs make them a natural fit for potentially alleviating RA symptoms.
While the number of clinical trials using MSCs to treat RA has increased in recent years, more research is required to optimize treatment methods.²
We recently released a research study overview summarizing the data collected from Celltex clients with various types of inflammatory arthritis. In that study, Celltex clients gave their impressions of how MSC therapy had impacted their inflammatory arthritis.
- 100% of Celltex client respondents reported improvement in one or more symptoms.
- 75% of physicians noted a measured improvement in their patient’s IA symptoms via the American College of Rheumatology’s ACR20 Assessment.
- 90% of client respondents with IA said they would recommend MSC therapy to others.
For a more detailed look, you can request a copy of the complete research overview here.
Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease, but inflammation still plays a significant role in the joint damage associated with it, which is why research into using MSCs to treat symptoms of osteoarthritis has shown great promise.
In 2016, Wang et al. examined 38 clinical trials focused on MSC therapy of osteoarthritis, highlighting positive results in symptom improvement, pain reduction and, in some cases, cartilage regeneration.
In internal studies, Celltex has also seen significant results for osteoarthritis. Based on Celltex client reported outcomes:
- 83% of Celltex clients with osteoarthritis reported symptom improvement.
- 86% of Celltex clients with osteoarthritis of the knee said they would recommend MSC therapy to others.
- 95% of Celltex clients with osteoarthritis of the shoulder said they would recommend MSC therapy to others.
Exploring the Research: Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to diseases often characterized by chronic inflammation of the GI tract and includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.¹
According to a 2016 review from Wang et al., there were 19 registered clinical trials focused on MSCs for IBD, with a majority of them addressing Crohn’s disease. Numerous studies specifically examined the efficacy of MSCs in treating fistulas associated with Crohn’s disease.¹ Today, there are 28 studies listed on Clinicaltrials.gov relating to IBD and MSCs.
Clinical trials focused on MSCs for IBD have thus far shown promising results. According to Wang et al., there are fifteen trials that “overwhelmingly demonstrate that MSC therapy is not only safe but therapeutically relevant, with some patients showing durable effects.”¹
MSC therapy for IBD seems to be a highly promising option, with the caveat that most of the clinical trials referenced were for Crohn’s disease. There is comparatively less evidence supporting the use of MSCs in ulcerative colitis.
Exploring the Research: Multiple Sclerosis
We recently dedicated an entire blog post to discussing the research and science behind using MSC therapy with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), so you’ll find a more detailed discussion of MSCs and MS here.
There were 23 registered clinical trials investigating MSC therapy for MS in 2016 and while further research is still needed, it’s evident that MSC therapy holds promise for treating symptoms of MS.¹
For a more personal look at how MSC therapy can impact the lives of those with MS, take a look at our recent webinar with Celltex client Emma Oliveira-Monta, where she discusses how MSC therapy had a life-changing effect on her MS symptoms.
The Takeaway: More Research is Needed
Repeating the phrase “It shows promise, but more research is needed” probably makes us sound like a broken record, but it reflects the reality that research into stem cell therapy, particularly MSC therapy, is still in its early stages.
We may not have concrete answers just yet, but as research continues to move forward it has become clear that Mesenchymal Stem Cells have the potential to revolutionize the way we approach treating autoimmune diseases.
For a detailed overview of client-reported outcomes for inflammatory arthritis or multiple sclerosis, please see the links below.
- Wang, LT., Ting, CH., Yen, ML. et al. Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for treatment towards immune- and inflammation-mediated diseases: review of current clinical trials. J Biomed Sci 23, 76 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12929-016-0289-5
- Bačenková D, Trebuňová M, Morochovič R, Dosedla E, Findrik Balogová A, Gašparová P, Živčák J. Interaction between Mesenchymal Stem Cells and the Immune System in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2022 Jul 28;15(8):941. doi: 10.3390/ph15080941. PMID: 36015088; PMCID: PMC9416102.
- Young J, Rhodes M. Patient Reported Outcomes: Prospective/Retrospective Surveys of Patients with Inflammatory Arthritis Treated with Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells, 2021 Update.
Celltex Therapeutics Corporation is an international leader in cryopreservation, or banking, and culturing of autologous, adipose-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) for therapeutic use and has remained committed to improving and maintaining clients’ quality of life. Celltex has the unique ability to do what no one else can: isolate, expand and cryopreserve your own MSCs to create your master cell bank, all from one small sample of your adipose tissue. This bank of MSCs can then be used to produce hundreds of millions of clinical-grade, genetically stable MSCs that are available for therapeutic use. To learn more about Celltex, visit www.celltexbank.com
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