Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system – the brain, spinal cord and the optic nerves. MS is believed to be an autoimmune disease which causes damage to the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibers, called myelin. Damage to myelin interferes with messages between the brain and other parts of the body.

MS destroys myelin in multiple areas of the nervous system, leaving scar tissue called sclerosis. These damaged areas are also known as plaques or lesions. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken.

Symptoms of MS vary from person to person and from time to time in the same person. For example, one person may experience abnormal fatigue, while another might have severe vision problems. A person with MS could have loss of balance and muscle coordination making walking difficult; another person with MS could have slurred speech, tremors, stiffness, and bladder problems. For some people, MS is characterized by periods of relapse and remission, while for others symptoms get progressively worse over time.

At present, there are several drug treatments that slow the disease and reduce symptoms of MS – but there is still no cure.

Human and Social Costs

MS is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system. About 400,000 Americans have MS and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals.

Anyone may develop MS, but there are some patterns. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Two-three times as many women as men have MS.

Recent studies sponsored by the National MS Society show that annual direct and indirect costs of the disease for each affected individual averages $44,000 – and the total cost can exceed $2.6 million over an individual’s lifetime. For all people with MS in the United States, the annual cost exceeds $13 billion.

Other human costs associated with MS are the social, vocational and emotional complications associated with the primary and secondary symptoms. The diagnosis of a chronic illness can be damaging to self-esteem and self-image. A person who becomes unable to walk or drive may lose his or her livelihood. The strain of dealing with a chronic neurological illness may disrupt personal relationships. In addition, people with MS frequently experience mood swings and depression as primary, secondary, or tertiary symptoms of the disease.

The Potential for Stem Cell Cures/Treatments

As in the case of other neurological diseases and injuries, such as Parkinson’s and spinal cord injury, stem cells offer the promising potential to repair and replace nerve and tissue damaged by MS. For example, recent studies at UC Irvine demonstrated in an animal model of MS that stem cells – partially changed into those that naturally produce myelin – achieved significant reinsulation of damaged nerve fibers. Animals receiving this stem cell transplant experienced improved motor skills, indicating that these cells had indeed restored some function to damaged nerves.

The recent discovery that neural stem cells exist in adult human brains raises the possibility that these stem cells could be used to make new myelin. MS investigators are also thinking of creating more myelin-makers by transplanting a fresh population of stem cells into the central nervous system. Some scientists have even speculated about treating stem cells with gene therapy to endow them with MS-fighting properties before transplanting them.

That’s why the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and other MS groups and advocates strongly support stem cell research using all human cell types that might further the development of treatments and a cure for MS.


The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

"InsideMS: The Stem Cell Story."

"Stem cells stimulated by natural growth factor reverse damage, restore some function in adult brain."   University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine

"Nerve tissue damage related to multiple sclerosis can be repaired, UC Irvine scientists find." University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine

"Adult stem cells tackle multiple sclerosis."

"Stem cells help paralyzed mice walk: Injections appear to treat mouse multiple sclerosis."   Nature Science Update.

"Brain Stem Cells Repair Tissues Attacked By Multiple Sclerosis."   The Myelin Project

"Scientists use stem cells to cure MS in mice."   New Zealand Herald

Publications Demonstrating Proof-of-Concept for Stem Cell Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

- Brustle O. McKay R. Embryonic stem cell-derived precursors: a source of myelinating transplants. Science (1999) 285: 754-756

- Totoiu MO. Keirstead HS. Remyelination, axonal sparing, and locomotor recovery following transplantation of glial-committed progenitor cells into the MHV model of multiple sclerosis. Experimental Neurology (2004) 187: 254-265




Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
Privacy Policy  |   Site Map  |   Contact Us  |   Search