Study Shows Stem Cell Infusions Are the 1st Therapy to Reverse MS

By Eliza Strickland | January 30, 2009 4:00 pm

neuronInfusions of stem cells taken from multiple sclerosis patients’ own bone marrows have shown great promise in rolling back symptoms of the disease. In a small study, researchers found that 81 percent of the participants still showed some improvement three years after the treatment, and the rest of the patients had not deteriorated. “All therapies to date … have focused on slowing the progression of disease,” said [lead researcher] Richard Burt…. “What this actually did is that it reversed disability. This is the first time we have turned the tide on this disease” [Chicago Sun-Times].

In multiple sclerosis, or MS, the patients’ immune systems turn on their own central nervous systems, stripping the protective myelin sheaths from nerve fibers and leading to problems with vision, balance, and coordination. The researcher team tested the new treatment on 21 patients in the early stages of the disease, when symptoms alternately flare up and recede. Burt and his colleagues had previously tried using stem cells to reverse this process in patients with advanced stages of the disease, with little success. “If you wait until there’s neuro-degeneration, you’re trying to close the barn door after the horse has already escaped,” says Burt. What you really want to do is stop the autoimmune attack before it causes nerve-cell damage, he adds [New Scientist].

As reported in The Lancet Neurology [subscription required], researchers first harvested stem cells from the patients’ bone marrow and froze them, then they used chemotherapy drugs to destroy all the immune cells currently in the patients’ bone marrow. The stem cells were then transplanted back to replenish the immune system – effectively resetting it [BBC News]. The stem cells developed into immune cells that did not see the myelin sheath as alien, and therefore did not attack it.

One of the success stories is 24-year-old Edwin McClure, who was first diagnosed with MS during high school when his vision suddenly deteriorated. “It was like someone had turned down the dimmer switch,” he said…. He also suffered from dizziness, poor balance and fatigue so bad that he’d collapse and sleep for three hours every day after school [Bloomsberg]. After several years of receiving conventional drug treatments and seeing their beneficial effects wane, McClure went to Chicago to take part in the stem cell trial in 2005. He spent a month being treated, and hasn’t needed any drugs since. “It’s a blessing,” he said. “My disease has been halted” [Bloomsberg].

Related Content:
80beats: FDA Approves the First Clinical Trials Using Embryonic Stem Cells
80beats: Beware of Bogus Clinics Offering Stem Cell Cures
80beats: Experimental Drug May Reverse the Destructive Progress of MS
DISCOVER: High-Intensity MRI Could Catch Alzheimer’s, MS

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Vasyl

    Quite interesting. On another note, “when he vision suddenly” should be “when his vision suddenly” in the last paragraph.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    Thanks for catching that typo, Vasyl, I fixed it.

  • http://colleen521@verizon.net colleen gormley

    Can you direct to a Stem Cell Study?
    I am a 42 y/o female.
    Dx w/RRMS in 9/1992.
    Need assistance with walking since I gave birth in 5/2003.

    Thanks,
    Colleen
    610-345-0251

  • Carrol Stearns

    I am very interested in this. I was DX with RRMS in 2000. I have very very mild symptoms compared to others that I have read about.I was on Avonex for 6 yrs and was so sick the entire time that I finally stopped. About 2 weeks after stopping the injections I started feeling really good and have stayed that way for 4 yrs now.I do have numbness in my right hand. It seems like every thing to do with my MS in on my right side only. I would love to have more information on this form of treatment.
    Sincerly,
    Carrol Stearns
    580-889-4721

  • http://www.sideshowtoy.com Matt

    For anyone wanting more info, there are a handful of people over at the MSWorld forums who have undergone Stem Cell Therapy with some major improvements. http://www.msworld.org/forum

  • Pat Kershner

    Please send me information on this stem cell infusion. My daughter was diagnosed with MS three years ago. Thank-you.

  • april

    i would love to try this i live in ohio where the cleveland clinic is and i think they are doing research on stem cell for ms its all on my right side /this would be really great .i just want to get back to work and help others . please feel free to call me about this .

    or
    phone 330-923-6291

    thanks so much april

  • Shirley Renshaw

    NO it’s NOT.

    Angioplasty should be the first line of defense. It’s cheaper. They would save so much money and the persons immune system would not be compromised. Hmmmm I do not understand why they have to be so aggressive with their drugs and yet a NON drug simple Angioplasty is not even considered? Please explain this to me :(

    AND don’t go on about this stem cell crap NOT being experimental. Just as experimental as CCSVI Angioplasty if you want to argue the fact. Proper blood flow would stop progression and there is NO proof that stem cells will do the same.

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