Professor Siddharthan Chandran, University of Edinburgh
Professor Tamir Ben-Hur, Hadassah - The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This project explored the potential of cell therapies to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). Neural stem cells, which can produce many different types of nerve cells, are being investigated as cells that could be used to stop the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like MS when transplanted. A strain of mouse called Biozzi ABH provides researchers with a good model of how MS develops.
In this project, the groups of Chandran and Ben-Hur used this mouse to investigate how neural stem cells behaved once transplanted into the nervous system. They made a transgenic mouse strain from which they could generate neural stem cells marked with a fluorescent tag. Any cells derived from these neural stem cell transplants could then be followed in the animal using this tag. The groups transplanted tagged neural stem cells into Biozzi ABH mice and followed where the cells had migrated to, how many survived, and what they eventually developed into. They showed that these cell transplants helped to stop the disease developing and progressing and also had an impact on myelination of nerve cells – a process that is vital for nerve cell behaviour but goes wrong in MS. The groups also showed, for the first time, that human stem cell derived myelinating precursor cells when transplanted into Biozzi ABH mice were therapeutic. This is an important finding and ongoing experiments are trying to understand the mechanism by which these human cells slow disease progression