Modern Lab Software Can Help Answer New Questions About Multiple Sclerosis Stem Cell Treatment

Biologics

ms-questionsScientists have discovered a cure for MS that works in a small portion of the affected population and promises to be a tool for learning how to cure the rest. Image Source: Flickr User: SFU – University Communications

A few weeks ago, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) broke the news that two Ottawa-based doctors (and a host of their colleagues) published a paper in “The Lancet” chronicling the successful use of stem cell therapy to battle multiple sclerosis (MS).1   It was only successful in a small minority of the patients treated, but that minority experienced a full-blown reversal of symptoms and recovery. The tides are turning on MS, and researchers may soon arrive at a universal cure for this horrible neurodegenerative illness. The information learned through this process will be indispensable and spur the development of a multitude of new therapies. Moving forward, scientists will benefit from innovative lab software to analyze the underlying mechanisms of this treatment and develop new biologic therapies.

New Advances in Stem Cell Therapies

This recent development in MS treatment is largely attributed to autologous haemopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT). aHSCT hinges on the use of autologous haematopoietic stem cells (HSC) which are extracted from the patient then stored while the patient undergoes immunoablation. Yes, this is as unpleasant as this sounds, but once the extracted HSC are administered to the patient, it quite effectively treats particular types of cancer; additionally, it appears to have reversed symptoms and allowed a small population of patients with MS to recover.

Prior to this recent study, there had been several studies in the 1990s where various chemotherapeutic therapies were used in conjunction with aHSCT. There were some minor successes, but the investigators in the most recent publication felt that the study designs fell short on the levels of immunodepletion and immunoablation. By looking more objectively at the results from these studies, researchers were able to see greater possibilities.2 This type of information reassessment can be done more easily using laboratory software that didn’t exist at the time of these original studies. Old data can be entered into modern computer software to be analyzed in ways that are overly difficult when processing data manually allowing researchers to draw better conclusions more quickly.

Through a better immunodepletion and immunoablation protocol, it appeared it would be possible to push certain populations of patients into a permanent remission. In fact, a few of the patients from the studies in the ‘90s saw long-term remission. Fortunately, modern lab software and advancements in the field have exposed researchers to new opportunities. Since the ‘90s, researchers have created iPSCs and have worked on treatment regimens that are far more effective than those crafted in the early years of stem cell research.3

All that said, aHSCT has traditionally had a poor safety profile. Innovative lab software and further research is needed to figure out which populations are at risk for complications. One of the biggest takeaways from this most recent studies is how heterogeneous the MS patient base is. Computationally stratifying these populations in combination with which therapies are effective will prove indispensable for MS researchers—and multitudes of other researchers—in the coming years.

Using Recent Innovations to Learn More

So now what? There is still a lot that can be learned from this situation in terms of how MS develops in certain patients:

  • Distinct subpopulations of those with MS are more susceptible to this treatment. What genetic factors may be at play in this situation? Is there a particular gene, allele, SNP or SNV that is easily testable for diagnostic purposes?
  • What does this treatment indicate about the progression of the illness? Could this subset of the population potentially avoid ever showing the full phenotype of MS?
  • In what ways does this population look the same/different as compared to patients that don’t respond to this form of treatment?
  • Why didn’t other patients respond to this treatment? There are a multitude of factors that may be observed across this highly heterogenous patient base, but this does present a unique opportunity to find more common factors.
  • How does this reflect upon current knowledge regarding the progression of this illness? By using innovative lab software, researchers may be able to track where and how progression of this illness was stalled. Additionally, it may provide clues to specific sources of the illness, genetic or otherwise.

There is a lot to be learned from these experiments, if scientists can comb through all of the available data. And moving forward, there is going to be a multitude of data to sort through. One of the best ways researchers can do this is through the use of modern lab software. In silico, as it is sometimes called, researchers are able to better model the progression of illness, model biologic therapeutic therapies, such as antibody based therapies, and look at genetic similarities, or differences, across tissues. This treatment will hopefully prove to be a formidable stepping stone in the direction of a cure for all patients with MS.

BIOVIA Biologics provides a common platform with a plethora of analytical and organization capabilities. This technology has the capacity to assist researchers from pre-benchtop planning to clinical trials, with predictive analytics, antibody modelling, workflow and data management. This will help researchers work their way through decades of patient data to pluck out important commonalities surrounding MS phenotypes. Please contact us today to learn more about how our software options can support the efforts of your lab.

  1. “A new ‘cure’ for MS? Not so fast.” June 17, 2016, http://www.macleans.ca/society/health/a-new-cure-for-ms-not-so-fast/
  2. “Immunoablation and autologous haemopoietic stem-cell transplantation for aggressive multiple sclerosis: a multicentre single-group phase 2 trial,” June 9, 2016, http://thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30169-6/fulltext
  3.  “Stem cells – the future: an introduction to iPS cells,” November 26, 2016, http://www.eurostemcell.org/toolkititem/stem-cells-future-introduction-ips-cells