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Stem Cell Transplants Show Promise For MS Patients

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, January 30, 2009 10:58 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Stem Cell Transplant, Multiple Sclerosis


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons / Types of MS / author: Lipothymia

A new study suggests Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients infused with their own immune cells, can help the immune system to reset itself and possibly reverse symptoms if in the early stages, reports BBC News.

The early-phase research project is similar to previous experiments in which a patient’s own stem cells were used to treat autoimmune diseases. The treatment, called Autologous Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation, has also shown encouraging results in people with diabetes and lupus.

MS is a disorder in which the nerves of the eye, brain and spinal cord lose myelin, a protective coating that facilitates the transmission of electrical impulses.

An estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.5 million people globally have Multiple Sclerosis.

The cause of Multiple Sclerosis is unknown. However, scientists believe that a virus or other antigen triggers a process that results in deteriorated myelin. These antibodies damage the myelin sheath and interfere with the transmission of electrical impulses.

For the study, Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern University in Chicago and colleagues selected 21 patients -- aged 20 to 53 -- with early-stage MS that had not responded to six months of standard MS treatment with interferon beta.

First, patients underwent chemotherapy treatment to destroy their immune system. Then they were injected with their own immune system cells that had been removed prior to chemotherapy.

17 of the 21 patients (about 81%) had improved by one or more points on a scale of neurological disability and the disease stabilized in all patients. Patients continued to improve for up to 24 months after the transplant procedure, and then stabilized.

The study findings are reported online in the January issue of The Lancet Neurology.

Five patients in the study relapsed, but after receiving other therapy went into remission.

Researchers have begun a large randomized controlled trial to compare the treatment with standard therapy. This was the first MS study of any treatment to show reversal of damage.

IB previous reported that the green light has been given for the first study of human embryonic stem cell therapy testing just three days after the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the okay for the research, which will allow Geron Corp., a biotech company in Menlo Park California, to test its product that will focus on reversing paralysis from spinal cord injuries. #

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