The Remyelination Philosopher's Stone: Stem and Progenitor Cell Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis

Cell Tissue Res. 2012 Jul;349(1):331-47. doi: 10.1007/s00441-012-1331-x. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that leads to oligodendrocyte loss and subsequent demyelination of the adult central nervous system (CNS). The pathology is characterized by transient phases of recovery during which remyelination can occur as a result of resident oligodendroglial precursor and stem/progenitor cell activation. However, myelin repair efficiency remains low urging the development of new therapeutical approaches that promote remyelination activities. Current MS treatments target primarily the immune system in order to reduce the relapse rate and the formation of inflammatory lesions, whereas no therapies exist in order to regenerate damaged myelin sheaths. During the last few years, several transplantation studies have been conducted with adult neural stem/progenitor cells and glial precursor cells to evaluate their potential to generate mature oligodendrocytes that can remyelinate axons. In parallel, modulation of the endogenous progenitor niche by neural and mesenchymal stem cell transplantation with the aim of promoting CNS progenitor differentiation and myelination has been studied. Here, we summarize these findings and discuss the properties and consequences of the various molecular and cell-mediated remyelination approaches. Moreover, we address age-associated intrinsic cellular changes that might influence the regenerative outcome. We also evaluate the extent to which these experimental treatments might increase the regeneration capacity of the demyelinated human CNS and hence be turned into future therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology*
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Wound Healing