Monday, 26 July 2010

The Zamboni myth: why “CCSVI” is surreal

Some further reflection on CCSVI: click here

Cord blood banking; what to advise regarding stem cell therapies

My response to a question about banking cord blood from a newborn baby to treat a family member with severe MS.

"The potential of stem cell therapies for neurological conditions has been over-hyped by both the basic scientists involved and the media. This is great pity as it raises false expectations of a breakthrough for vulnerable people with disabling conditions.

At present the research is a long way from reaching the clinic with some early exploratory safety studies underway in the UK and elsewhere. The science suggests that mesenchymal stem cells, i.e. those derived from skin, and bone-marrow derived stem cells may work as immunomodulatory therapies rather than as a neuro-restorative therapies; this means that they will be of benefit early in the course of the disease to modify the clinical course. They will not help people who are already disabled.

Embryonic stem cells, which are derived from foetal tissue, are unlikely to be used in humans as they have a propensity to cause primitive tumours because of their ability to differentiate in numerous cell types; there are several reports of this occurring already. In my opinion, routine storage of cord blood cells should therefore be done for altruistic reasons to support research. To do it specifically for an unproven therapy or a potential therapy in the future cannot be recommended at this stage."

Genes determine low levels of vitamin D: implications for MS

Vitamin D is crucial for maintenance of the immune system and vD deficiency has been implicated in the causal pathway of MS. In this study genetic variants at three places in the genome were associated with vD levels. Subjects with a score that combined all three variants were at increased risk of having low vD concentrations. These variants in the genome are near genes involved in cholesterol metabolism and vD transport. It will be very important to see if these areas are associated with MS. This study tells us that the story behind vD and MS will be very complex; it will take a lot of hard work to pin down how vD deficiency contributes to the pathogenesis of MS.

Wang et al. Lancet. 2010 Jul 17;376(9736):148-9.

CCSVI Alliance

The proponents of CCSVI launch an alliance: http://www.ccsvi.org/