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Early Multiple Sclerosis Reversed with Stem Cell Transplant

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine have used stem cells to reverse early Multiple Sclerosis in a small phase I and II trial. The research included twenty-one patients, age 20 to 53, showing that using the patient's own stem cells reversed neurological dysfunction associated with multiple sclerosis.

Lead study author Richard Burt, M.D. chief of immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases at the Feinberg says, "This is the first time we have turned the tide on this disease." The patients in the study had been diagnosed with MS for five years, and had been unsuccessfully treated for six months with beta interferon.

The team designed their approach to reverse multiple sclerosis, by disrupting the immune system of the participants with chemotherapy, and using a process known as autologous non-myeloablative haematopoietic stem-cell transplantion to create a new immune system.

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First, they took stem cells from the patient's blood, saving them for injections after destroying the immune system of the multiple sclerosis study group.

After an average follow up of three years, 17 of the 21 stem-cell transplant recipients had no progression of MS symptoms, and had less disability associated with multiple sclerosis (one point on the disability scale).

Dr. Burt explains, "We focus on destroying only the immune component of the bone marrow and then regenerate the immune component, which makes the procedure much safer and less toxic than traditional chemotherapy for cancer. After the transplantation, the patient's new lymphocytes or immune cells are self-tolerant and do not attack the immune system. In MS, the immune system is attacking your brain. After the procedure, it doesn't do that anymore."

Results of previous studies showed that stem cell transplant had no benefit in later stages of multiple sclerosis. Dr. Burt has begun a randomized national study to further exciting research that may prove that early multiple sclerosis can be reversed with stem cell transplant using patient's own immune cells.

Stem Cell Therapy for Patients With Multiple Sclerosis Failing Interferon A Randomized Study