According to a recent report on BBC news, stem cell therapy can be a life changing treatment for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). For those who are not familiar, MS is a disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system, hindering the brain and spinal cord’s ability to deliver and receive messages properly. For this reason, MS can cause impaired movement and vision, muscle weakness, pain, impaired cognition, and ultimately severe handicap at the condition’s worst.
However, an exciting international clinical study has given hope for future MS treatment. All patients in the study had a disease state where their MS had periods of relapse followed by periods of remission. One hundred and two patients were enrolled in the study; Fifty-two of them received the stem cell therapy and the fifty patients in the control group received a drug treatment. The stem cell therapy consisted of wiping out the patient’s immune system with chemotherapy and then re-setting it with a hematopoietic stem cell transplant using cells harvested from the patient. Hematopoietic stem cells are stem cells made in the bone marrow that serve as precursors to blood and immune cells.
The results of this study seem to be promising. A year after treatment, thirty-nine patients in the control group had MS relapses compared to only one patient in the stem cell transplant group. Moreover, after an average follow-up period of three years, treatment failed in three of the fifty-two patients (6%) in the stem cell transplant group versus thirty of the fifty patients in the control group (60%). One of the patients who was interviewed reported that her diagnosis feels like “it was just a bad dream” because after the stem cell transplant she was able to gain back the quality of life she had before her MS diagnosis. However more clinical trials are needed to better understand safety and efficacy of stem cells for disease.