Multiple sclerosis is one of the most debilitating diseases to affect all ages of the population. This disease is an inflammatory disease that damages the insulating cover (myelin) of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This damage creates a disruption in the ability of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a myriad of signs and symptoms. Multiple sclerosis takes on several forms with the most common being the progressive form and the relapsing form. Although symptoms go away between attacks, permanent neurological damage occurs and will get worse as the disease progresses.
The Sign, Symptoms, and Causes of Multiple Sclerosis
Patients with multiple sclerosis will show neurological signs and symptoms associated with visual, motor, autonomic, and sensory problems. The symptoms are dependent upon where the lesions are located within the nervous system. The underlying mechanism of multiple sclerosis is caused by one of two things: the destruction of the immune system or a failure in the insulating nerve cell covers in the brain or spinal cord.
Once the myelin is destroyed, there is another failure in the myelin-producing cells to repair the damage. The condition starts out in 85 percent of cases as a clinically isolated incident that may worsen into a few days or months. This is followed by a sudden improvement, then gradually worsens again with no improvement. There are triggers that can cause a relapse such as viral infections (cold and flu) and stress. Pregnancy causes a decrease in relapses, although the first few months after delivery cause an increased risk.
Multiple Sclerosis and Stem Cells during Pregnancy
It is an interesting fact that the risk of multiple sclerosis relapses become diminished during pregnancy. Common sense would tell you that the stress of pregnancy should increase the risk of relapse, although it actually decreases it. The reason could be stem cells. The fetus detects that the mother has damage to the myelin of the nerve cells and sends out stem cells to help in healing or repairing of the damage. This would not permanently heal the damage but would result in the marked decrease seen in studies of pregnant women also suffering from multiple sclerosis.
The stem cells doing the repair while pregnant are amniotic derived stem cells. Therapy is only in its infancy for patients suffering multiple sclerosis and amniotic stem cell treatment. However, there are several clinical trials ongoing using bone marrow-derived stem cell therapy. One of the most challenging aspects of multiple sclerosis is the fact that once the disease has been diagnosed, the damage has already been done. This has prevented scientists from understanding the origin of the disease.
Therapy with bone marrow-derived stem cells gives scientists a unique opportunity to create cells needed for therapy and also to screen potential drugs for damaged cells. Using bone marrow-derived stem cells will allow scientists and researchers to develop these sick cells over and over until they fully understand the mechanism causing the cell damage. With bone marrow-derived stem cells, scientists can continuously grow a culture of cells that produce a limitless quantity of degenerating cells from which they study. These cells can also be used to engineer new cells that do not have the degenerative gene and use this to treat the already damaged cells. With this type of treatment, the possibilities are endless.