Searching for the Miracle Cure. MS in the Media

Last night we had a programme in the UK on  someones journey to Israel to examine the effect of mesenchymal stem cells.

It was dubbed a "Search for a Miracle Cure" and was on Channel 4, but there was no evidence presented to suggest it was a cure.

The investigators have developed a culture-based method for inducing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to secrete neurotrophic factors.

These have been used in motor neuron disease and it is clear it is not a cure.

Sensibly at the end of the programme they said the "study was not currently recruiting, so they will not get inundated with requests as it could look like advert for the trial.

They planned to treat with autologous mesenchymal bone marrow stem cells in active and progressive multiple sclerosis. The trial (NCT02166021) requires 36 people and will involve injection of mesenchymal stem cells into the intrathecal space, in the blood or in both intrathecal and intravenous routes. The participants required are non PPMS, progressive MS, EDSS 3.0-6.5 in people who have failed DMT and are showing activity.

In the programme, which followed the journey of someone with MS travelling to Israel. One could see ring enhancing gadolinium lesions on the brain scan shown, indicating that disease was active.

However, if you enter being active, due to natural healing you could get better and this is called "regression to the mean".

I had telecom midway through so will have to watch on catch-up.

However the person in the film had reported return of function in their arm within a couple of hours. So is it remyelination or immunosuppressive I doubt it, as the effect is so quick. 

However some anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) obvious do work within this time frame. But maybe there is a growth factor produced the stem cells.

So it is a placebo effect or maybe there is a symptomatic benefit

Maybe one of the neurotrophic factors produced could promote nerve conduction. In many animal studies transplanted cells are dead within a few day so by the time I finished on the phone the beneficial effect had waned, so it does not appear to be a cure that reverts you back to health. I would not expect treatments to do this

However, would it have some effect stopping future disease?

Without the total data it will not be possible to say.

Therefore, a sensational title, that would leave me more deflated by the reality.

However, as it is supposedly blinded we have no idea what the person/people in the film was/were taking.

I asked the PI of the study whether they wanted to do a "Guest Post" to give the grounded view of the study..but no response so far.