Successful treatment of refractory epilepsy patients with MSCs

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Researchers at the Belarusian State Medical University have carried out a Phase 1 trial to evaluate the therapeutic potential of autologous patient-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in treating drug-resistant epilepsy patients. A year after initial treatment, the results indicate a significant reduction in the incidence of seizures.

This stem cell therapy approach was developed in response to the limited efficacy of traditional anti-epileptic drugs (AED) in many patients. Thus the subjects enrolled in the study were deemed both drug-resistant and symptomatic. A control group received standard treatment with AED, whilst the test subjects received AED supplemented with intravenous administration of undifferentiated autologous MSCs. The latter group also had an intrathecal injection of neurally induced autologous MSC.

The main measure of the trial’s outcomes was seizure frequency. The results published in Advances in Medical Sciences showed that, amongst the patients who received the therapy, 30% achieved remission as they did not experience any seizures in the year of follow up, and beyond. A further 50% became responsive to AEDs which was significantly more than the 17% who had the same outcome in the control group. No severe adverse effects were encountered for the duration of the trial.

Previous work carried out in Belgium had not noted any significant disease-modifying effects of MSCs applied to animal models with epilepsy. In contrast, the results from the current in-human trial suggest a positive outlook for further research on this therapeutic approach. The researchers who carried out the trial concluded that ‘MSC possess unique immunomodulatory properties and are a safe and promising candidate for cell therapy in AED resistant epilepsy patients.’

Source: Treatment of refractory epilepsy patients with autologous mesenchymal stem cells reduces seizure frequency: An open label study. Hlebokazov F et al., Advances in Medical Sciences May 2017. DOI