On 6th May 2010, the journal Nature Reviews Neurology published a new report about the future of multiple sclerosis (MS). The guidelines focus on the use of stem cell therapy. They were written by a group of international experts on the disease, and agreed upon by various MS societies, following a meeting in London in May 2009 where an international consensus was reached.
The report underlies several key points. First it outlines different types of stem cell therapies for MS and how each has worked in the past. Then it also lists different delivery methods for those therapies, and how those therapies should be evaluated in terms of efficacy and safety.
The report has been summarized in the form of a booklet, 'Stem Cell Therapies in MS', produced by MS societies from Australia, France, Italy, the UK and the US, as well as the MS International Federation. Professor Gianvito Martino from the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, and Professor Robin Franklin from the University of Cambridge, UK, were two of the leading authors.
Professor Robin Franklin said: 'It is only by working together will we get the answer as to whether stem cell transplants hold promise in the treatment of MS. The guidelines will help the research community get to that answer more quickly than we would by working in isolation'.
While the authors believe that stem cells are the key to treating MS, they emphasized that it would not cure all cases.
Professor Gianvito Martino said: 'At this stage it is unreasonable to claim that stem cells are a magic cure for MS'.
Dr Jayne Spink, Director of Policy and Research at the MS Society in the UK, said the report 'should help counteract the confusion caused by unscrupulous stem cell clinics falsely marketing MS cures'.
Following the report, the UK MS Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation have agreed a £1 million research fund to help build upon current research and pave the way for future discoveries.