Illustration showing the process of stem cell transplantation. Produced by MS Research Australia. For more information visit

Recent media reports have featured news about a clinical trial involving harvesting a person’s own stem cells to treat aggressive multiple sclerosis.

This treatment, called Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (AHSCT), attempts to “reboot” the immune system, which is believed to launch attacks on the brain and spinal cord in people with MS.

AHSCT is under investigation in clinical trials in Canada, the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Clinical trials are needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of AHSCT in MS, and who might benefit most from this approach, since it does not seem to be effective in all types of MS.

In AHSCT, stem cells from a person’s own bone marrow or blood are stored, and the rest of the individual’s immune cells are depleted usually by chemotherapy. Then the stored stem cells are reintroduced and over time they produce new cells that repopulate the body with immune cells.

There is exciting progress being made through innovative research related to the potential of many types of stem cells both for slowing MS disease activity and for repairing damage to the nervous system.

At present, there are no approved stem cell therapies for MS. Stem cell therapy is in the experimental stage, and it’s important for people to have the best available information to understand this exciting area of research and make decisions related to this complex issue.

In November 2015, MSIF co-funded the International Conference on Cell-Based Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis which was convened by the National MS Society and ECTRIMS. This conference brought leading researchers and clinicians together to confer on clinical trials needed to provide answers about which types of cells, which route of delivery, and which types and stages of disease, would be the most promising approach for treating MS. A summary and consensus on next steps will be published by the conference organisers, with recommendations to help speed the development of new cell-based treatment solutions.

(Article originally published by the National MS Society:

Read more on this topic from our members

MS Society of Canada: Landmark MS Scientific Research Foundation funded study demonstrates that “rebooting” the immune system stops new disease and leads to recovery in people with aggressive multiple sclerosis

UK MS Society: Meet the Professors behind stem cell transplantation

MS Research Australia: Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (AHSCT) for MS

Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla: Speciale cellule staminali

Page Tags: