Exploring How Stem Cell Transplants Affect Immune Cells in MS Patients by Dr Barbara Withers and Dr Malini Visweswaran, St Vincent’s Centre for Applied Medical Research


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Using a patient’s own blood stem cells for treatment, known as autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT), has been shown to improve symptoms in patients with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).  To understand how this treatment works, Dr Barbara Withers and Dr Malini Visweswaran are studying the metabolism of immune cells—how they produce energy and remove waste—before and after the transplant.  This understanding could lead to improvements in using transplants for treatment in the future.

Dr Barbara Withers received a St Vincent’s Clinic Research Foundation grant in 2022 with the main objectives of the study to:

  • Examine how specific immune cells in MS patients make and use energy.
  • Identify changes in the metabolic profiles of these immune cells before and after AHSCT.
  • Determine if changes in cell metabolism are linked to patients’ clinical responses to the treatment.
  • Understand whether these metabolic changes are due to the disease itself or the transplant procedure.

The study aims to provide a detailed understanding of how immune cells in MS patients function before and after AHSCT.  By identifying changes in cell metabolism, researchers hope to find markers that predict how well patients will respond to the treatment.  This could lead to more personalised and effective treatments for MS and other autoimmune diseases.  The research team looks forward to sharing their findings and implications for better MS treatments soon.

“Our team is deeply thankful to the SVCRF for providing the support.  The grant has been instrumental in empowering the team to advance their investigations within this particular field of immunometabolic study, which is a highly novel niche area in autoimmune diseases.  The financial support has alleviated potential roadblocks in the execution of the project and nurtured specialised expertise.  The research findings that arise will contribute to the collective advancement of knowledge in immunometabolism and multiple sclerosis.”  Dr Barbara Withers and Dr Malini Visweswaran