Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease of nerve cells of the central nervous system. The cause of MS is unknown. There are approximately 2 to 2.5 million patients suffering from MS worldwide. Women are significantly more often affected than men. Smoking seems to increase the risk of the disease by a factor of 1.5. The main age for the beginning of the illness is between the second and the fourth decade of life. Children of MS patients have an increased probability to get affected by MS as well.
In MS nerve cells, which have the task of transmitting commands from the brain to the respective place of execution or sensory expressions from the place of contact to the brain are wrongly considered as sick by the body and therefore combated by dedicated immune defense cells.
During this attack of defense cells against autologous nerve cells the main target are the myelin sheaths that are located around the nerve cells. Due to the damage of myelin sheaths a scar is formed, which impairs the abilities of nerve cells and therefore the communication between the brain, organs, and other parts of the body. Sensory impressions can only reach the brain in an impeded way and signals sent from the brain are transmitted poorly as well.
Symptoms and Progress of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis can attack any type of nerve cells of the central nervous system, which can lead to a diversity of symptoms. Early complaints often are sensory disturbances like numbness or tingling sensations in arms, legs, and the upper body, as well as coordination problems or concentration difficulties. Typical advanced symptoms include muscle weakness, visual and sensation disorders, and other mental problems such as depressions or inappropriate euphoria.
Symptoms and progression of the disease differ between patients. MS is characterized by episodes. Every episode of exacerbation means a drastic deterioration of existing symptoms or the occurrence of a new symptom for a minimum of one day. There are different types of multiple sclerosis.
The first type is the relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. This illness proceeds in clearly separable episodes, which can take a few days to weeks. Between these episodes the patient’s condition is stable and symptoms are yet receding entirely at the beginning. The more episodes a patient suffers from, the higher the probability of remaining damages.
Without treatment relapsing remitting MS can merge into progressive multiple sclerosis. This type of MS is not characterized by clearly separable episodes, but by persisting deterioration and continuous gain in symptoms.
Due to the diversity of symptoms the diagnosis of MS is complicated. The average time between occurrence of the first symptoms and the diagnosis is 3 to 5 years.
Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis
Because multiple sclerosis is not yet curable, the therapy focuses on the patient’s quality of life, which should be held as high as possible. Modern therapies can indeed reduce the severity and frequency of episodes and thus influence the course of the disease in the ideal case.
The treatment is mainly carried out with medication. Certain drugs are used in the therapy of episodes. They have anti-inflammatory effects and are therefore able to reduce the duration of episodes and to avoid lasting damages. The second type of drugs is used to diminish the faulty immune response. This kind of medication is a long-term therapy, while a therapy of episodes is only temporary.
Occupational therapy and physiotherapy can help in minimizing coordination and mobility problems for as long as possible. Moreover, antidepressants can be given to remedy any depressions.
Stem Cell Therapy of Multiple Sclerosis
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) or Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF), obtained from the patient’s own fat, can be used therapeutically in multiple sclerosis. Stem cells are said to be precursor cells of all completed body cells. Now it is known that mesenchymal stem cells primarily act via modulating the immune system and stimulating regeneration of tissue and blood vessels by cytokines. Because multiple sclerosis both has an inflammatory and a degenerative component, the application of mesenchymal stem cells suggests itself.
The mesenchymal stem cells or SVF are isolated from a small amount of the patient’s own fat tissue, which is harvested by liposuction. Immediately after extraction the stem cells are injected into the areas concerned or applied systemically.
Studies about the regenerative effect of mesenchymal stem cells in different autoimmune diseases give cause for hope that stem cell therapy is able to modulate the patient’s immune system and thereby possibly delay the progression of the autoimmune disease MS. In addition, stem cells could also stimulate stationary stem cells of nerve cells to regenerate by means of cytokines and thus counteract further destruction of nerve cells.