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Investigating Adipose-derived Cells as a Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Review of “Immunomodulatory Effects of Adipose Stromal Vascular Fraction Cells Promote Alternative Activation Macrophages to Repair Tissue Damage” from STEM CELLS by Stuart P. Atkinson

Autoimmune responses in the peripheral lymphoid tissues against the protein sheath that insulates nerve axons in the central nervous system (CNS) leads to the unfortunately common neurodegenerative disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Researchers from the laboratory of Bruce A. Bunnell (Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, USA) have explored immunomodulatory treatment strategies for MS employing fresh adipose stromal vascular fraction (SVF) cells and culture-expanded adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) in a well-defined mouse model [1-4]. 

In their new STEM CELLS study, Bowles et al. further explore the cellular mechanisms behind the immunomodulatory function of adipose-derived cells and underline their potential for the repair and, possibly, regeneration of the CNS [5].

Initial findings confirmed that intraperitoneal administration of SVF cells and ASCs inhibited immune cell infiltration and neuroinflammation in cervical spinal cord sections of MS model mice. However, the authors noted that treatment with these adipose-derived cells also led the appearance of spleen-derived alternatively-activated macrophages in perivascular regions of the CNS, which act to promote repair/regeneration.

Further analyses demonstrated the presence of SVF cells and ASCs in the spleens of treated mice, where they promoted the alternative activation of macrophages mediated by increasing the numbers of regulatory T cells (Tregs), which prevent autoimmune disease, and decreasing the number of helper T cells (TH1 and TH7), which propagate autoimmune signaling and inflammation. However, the authors discovered that SVF cell treatment prompted a heightened immunomodulatory response and, therefore, may represent the best source of cells for MS treatment.

The creation of a reparative/regenerative environment within the CNS via spleen-based immunomodulation may make regenerative cells derived from adipose tissue an exciting option for the treatment of disorders such as MS. Furthermore, the easy access of immune-matched cells from the patient’s adipose tissues and the potential for rapid culture-free administration gives SVF cells further therapeutic and cost advantages.

To hear more about the therapeutic capacity of SVF cells and possible stem cell treatments for MS, stay tuned to the Stem Cells Portal.


  1. Strong AL, Bowles AC, Wise RM, et al. Human Adipose Stromal/Stem Cells from Obese Donors Show Reduced Efficacy in Halting Disease Progression in the Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Model of Multiple Sclerosis. Stem Cells 2016;34:614-626.
  2. Bowles AC, Strong AL, Wise RM, et al. Adipose Stromal Vascular Fraction-Mediated Improvements at Late-Stage Disease in a Murine Model of Multiple Sclerosis. Stem Cells 2017;35:532-544.
  3. Scruggs BA, Semon JA, Zhang X, et al. Age of the donor reduces the ability of human adipose-derived stem cells to alleviate symptoms in the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis mouse model. Stem cells translational medicine 2013;2:797-807.
  4. Semon JA, Maness C, Zhang X, et al. Comparison of human adult stem cells from adipose tissue and bone marrow in the treatment of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Stem cell research & therapy 2014;5:2.
  5. Bowles AC, Wise RM, Gerstein BY, et al. Immunomodulatory Effects of Adipose Stromal Vascular Fraction Cells Promote Alternative Activation Macrophages to Repair Tissue Damage. STEM CELLS 2017;35:2198-2207.