Stem cell therapy helps patients with multiple sclerosis

Finally an article from a reputable source about advances being made using adult stem cells to fight multiple sclerosis. Here is the article from Scientific American:

Using a method known as autologous non-myeloablative haemopoietic stem cell transplantation, Burt and his colleagues essentially eliminated misbehaving immune cells and replaced them with healthy ones (made from stem cells) in 21 patients (11 women and 10 men) with relapsing-remitting MS, a common form of the disease in which symptoms come and go.

The way they did this: patients were given drugs that prompted their bone marrow to release immune stem cells (which have the ability to morph into any type of immune cell) into the blood; they then extracted the cells from the blood and gave patients drugs that wiped out their overactive immune systems. The researchers then injected the patients with their stem cells that had been removed earlier; the stem cells quickly divided, giving rise to a fresh batch of normal immune cells in the patients.

The idea behind the therapy, Burt says, is to “regenerate a new immune system” that recognizes healthy tissue and does not destroy the protein sheaths.

After an average follow up time 37 months, 17 of the patients (80 percent) scored better on a standard test used to gauge their vision, muscle strength, motor coordination, and other aspects of neurological function than they had before the trial. The other four patients did not improve, but they also didn’t get any worse, Burt notes.

The next critical step is to figure out how the stem cell therapy stacks up against existing treatments for MS, such as tysabri and novantrone. These meds slow the disease by blocking or suppressing overactive immune systems, but they do not improve symptoms. Burt says he’s currently conducting another clinical trial with 110 MS patients in which he is comparing the safety and effectiveness of the stem cell therapy and MS drugs.

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