It has been established that the transplantations of hematopoietic stem cells are most successful when administered jointly with mesenchymal stem cells. The mesenchymal stem cells contribute to faster engraftment, while lowering the risk of rejection and complications from the transplantation. Equally important is that mesenchymal stem cells do not have the same restrictions in terms of histocompatibility, making them more accessible to all members of a family.Autoimmune Diseases
The Immunoregulatory / immunosuppressive effect of mesenchymal stem cells make them promising for the treatment of chronic autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematous and rheumatoid arthritis. Finding a lasting treatment for these diseases will have a significant impact on the quality of life of these patients.
A recent clinical trial conducted at a hospital in China in collaboration with a University in California, showed that mesenchymal stem cells derived from umbilical cord resulted in significant improvement on patients with systemic lupus erythematous (autoimmune disease that affects the joints, muscles and other parts of the body). Within 3 months after the administration of mesenchymal stem cells, all patients showed clinical improvement, while improvement was seen in 2 other patients without even the use of immunosuppressive drugs.
This is the first study to show that using mesenchymal stem cells from the umbilical cord blood is a safe and effective procedure, at least in the short term, in treating patients with systemic lupus erythematous.
A different clinical trial by the same research group administered mesenchymal stem cells to patients with multiple sclerosis (autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system). The results were encouraging resulting in a better quality of life to the patients. A similar clinical trial is being conducted in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Cambridge. Results from the study are not as yet available.
Diabetes Type I
Diabetes Type 1 is a chronic autoimmune disease that results in progressive destruction of pancreatic cells that produce insulin (pancreatic islets). For this reason it is often described as insulin-dependent.
Mesenchymal stem cells from the umbilical cord tissue have been transformed differentiate into cells that resemble the cells of pancreatic islets and have led to the production of human insulin. Currently, clinical trials to treat type 1 diabetes are in phases I and II.