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Schwann cell transplantation trial in Multiple Sclerosis at Yale University

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    Schwann cell transplantation trial in Multiple Sclerosis at Yale University

    Many animal studies have shown that Schwann cells will remyelinate the spinal cord. Both the isolation and storage of human Schwann cells, however, was difficult. However, recently Yale University working with the Miami Project and the Myelin Project (see links below) reported successful isolation, freezing, and then use of thawed human cells to remyelinate the spinal cord or rats:

    They are beginning to use this procedure to transplant Schwann cells to patients with multiple sclerosis. There was an announcement that they have transplanted to one patient. However, people can contact Timothy Vollmer, M.D. at Yale University

    Myelin Project links

    Link to the Yale Schwann cell clinical trial article in the Cure Forum

    [This message was edited by Wise Young on 04-29-04 at 10:53 PM.]


    The Myelin Project Progress Report

    June 23, 2003


    The Schwann cell transplantation trial at Yale University, for which
    we had high hopes, is over. Earlier this year, Dr. Vollmer and his
    colleagues decided to discontinue this study because they found no
    evidence of Schwann cell survival in the first three implanted
    patients. The study demonstrated, however the safety of the
    transplantation procedure, an important result in itself.
    Failure to find surviving cells or formation of new myelin in the
    Yale trial does not mean that Schwann cells are a dead end. Dr.
    Vollmer himself is elaborating a protocol for a second clinical
    trial of Schwann cell transplantation that would draw from the
    lessons learned in the first. This prospective trial would be
    conducted at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona,
    where Dr. Vollmer relocated last year.


    In our December 2002 newsletter we reported that in the clinical
    trial of Schwann cell transplantation in MS patients at Yale
    University, the research team led by Dr. Vollmer found no evidence
    that the cells had survived in the three transplanted patients.
    Although this trial was planned for five patients, the investigators
    decided to discontinue the study, and we agreed.
    This development is something of a disappointment, as we had planned
    and pushed for this trial for several years, and had poured into it
    over a half-million dollars. But a negative result is always part of
    the bargain when embarking on experimental protocols. Our efforts
    were not altogether wasted, however.
    The first-ever attempt to transplant myelin-producing cells in the
    human CNS, the Yale trial showed the surgical procedure to be safe,
    with none of the patients suffering adverse side effects from the
    transplantation. This result was largely unexpected-many researchers
    believed that operating in the MS brain was too risky and that it
    would exacerbate the subjects' condition. But that did not occur. As
    mentions of the trial filter into journal articles, several
    researchers, both within and outside of The Myelin Project Work
    Group, have taken note of the safety of the transplantation
    procedure. Now that safety is no longer an issue, other researchers
    are likely to replicate the transplantation trial with Schwann cells
    or other cell types.
    Dr. Vollmer himself is planning to draw up a new protocol featuring
    Schwann cell transplantation in the CNS of MS patients. Capitalizing
    on the lessons learned in the Yale trial, he intends to improve the
    design of the next trial with regard to the site of the
    implantation, the stereotactic technique to be used, and MRI imaging
    of the patients' lesions. Dr. Vollmer proposes to complete this new
    protocol in time to discuss it at the annual meeting of The Myelin
    Project Work Group this fall.

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      Timothy Vollmer, the neurosurgeon who was carrying out the trial at Yale, has moved to the Barrows Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. I am not sure whether he is planning to continue the trial there. Wise.