Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in the UK are demonstrating significant improvements after receiving a treatment that is usually reserved for treating cancer.
MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The damage caused by MS can be permanent and lead to symptoms such as being unable to walk. Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 20 and 40-years-old.
Doctors in Sheffield, UK, report how over the last three years about 20 MS patients received bone marrow transplants using stem cells from their own bodies. This treatment has reversed paralysis in some patients, making it possible for them to walk again.
“To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement,” said Professor Basil Sharrack, a consultant neurologist at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
The treatment is called autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT); using chemotherapy its purpose is to destroy the faulty immune system. Stem cells are then used to repair the immune system. Because these cells are still at an early stage of development, they haven’t been infected by the flaws that initially cause MS.
Patients who have undergone this procedure have spoken about their recovery.
In a BBC interview, MS patient Steven Storey said that after his diagnoses in 2013 he lost sensation in most of his body. Once a natural athlete, he was eventually relegated to a wheelchair.
“At one point I couldn’t even hold a spoon and feed myself,” Storey said in the interview.
A few days after the transplant, Storey said he was able to move his toes; four months later he was able to stand.
“It’s been incredible. I was in a dire place, but now I can swim and cycle and I am determined to walk,” he further noted in the interview.
Holly Drewry was diagnosed with MS at the age of 21—her condition worsened after she gave birth to her daughter Isla.
“Within a couple of months I got worse and worse. I couldn’t dress or wash myself; I didn’t even have the strength to carry my daughter,” Drewry said in the BBC interview.
The HSCT procedure changed Drewry’s life.
“It’s been a miracle. I got my life and my independence back and the future is bright again in terms of being a mum and doing everything with Isla,” she added.
Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital is partnering with hospitals in the U.S., Brazil and Sweden to assess the long-term benefits of the treatment.
As we have previously reported, a cure for mitochondrial is also closer—and it’s due to stem cell breakthroughs. Scientists from Oregon Health & Science University and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies were able to convert skin cells from patients with mitochondrial disease into disease-free stem cells. Researchers are hopeful that they are even closer to finding a cure for people born with mitochondrial.
Mitochondrial is an inherited disorder that can cause physical as well as cognitive disabilities. Symptoms include muscle weakness, pain, learning disabilities, organ failure, gastrointestinal issues, and vision problems. Approximately one in 4,000 people have the disease, but there is no cure—making stem cell treatment breakthroughs all the more promising.
Source for Today’s Article:
Walsh, F., “Cancer treatment for MS patients gives ‘remarkable’ results,” BBC News web site, January 18, 2016; http://www.bbc.com/news/health-35065905.