Aug. 09, 2016

Stem cell research: This could change everything

A new stem cell study could provide a potentially transformative treatment for lupus.

If you'd like to support this research, consider making a dedicated gift.

This first-of-its-kind phase II clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cells* for the treatment of moderate to severe lupus could diminish the long-term effects of lupus, help lower medication dosage, stop damage to vital organs, and save lives.

Only one drug is now available to treat lupus. It took more than 50 years for a new drug to be approved for lupus and it does not work for everyone. We need treatments for lupus, and this study provides hope for the future.

Stem cells possess the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. They serve as a repair system for the body. Mesenchymal stem cells are found in mature tissues that have already developed. They are more specialized than embryonic stem cells. The body uses these cells to replace other cells that die off throughout the normal course of life. As they are not from fetal tissue, mesenchymal stem cells do not have the same ethical concerns or restrictions that embryonic stem cells do.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are derived from bone marrow, umbilical cords and other tissues. These anti-inflammatory cells have unique properties that make them attractive as therapy for autoimmune diseases. MSCs have been studied in inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma. In these studies, MSC treatment has been found to be effective and only minimal side effects reported.

Stem cell therapy holds promise as a safe and effective alternative for people with lupus who do not benefit from the current treatments available. Mesenchymal stem cell research has provided hope to people with formerly incurable and devastating conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, heart diseases, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes and osteoarthritis, as well as 80 other diseases.

Previous research using this type of therapy for lupus and other diseases reported minimal side effects. Like every potential new therapy, this treatment must be tested. We remain hopeful this procedure will prove successful and be included in the arsenal of treatments for lupus.

We are rallying support for this promising research so it will get the attention and funding needed to move forward.

Previous research on stem cells has been promising—but more testing is needed. That’s why we need your support.

Your contributions will enable researchers to initiate the pilot phase of the trial and enroll the first six randomized patients in the trial that is the “safety” phase required by the FDA. Ultimately, the study will be expanded through potential funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other sources.

Learn more and do your part to advance this life-saving study.

*This area of research does not use embryonic stem cells. There are no government, ethical or religious restrictions on this type of research.