MSUnites.com Nov 5, 2015
A new stem cell treatment has sent most of the MS patients who tried it into remission, halting the progression of the disease even several years afterwards.
In a recent clinical study at the COloroda Blood Cancer Institute 24 patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) underwent a three month procedure destroying their immune systems and then had their immune systems restarted using stem cell therapy.
The clinical study, led by Richard A. Nash had volunteers who’s walking ability, motor skills, level of cognition and quality of life was tested using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Each scored between 3.0 and 5.5, which classified them as having a mild to moderate disability. Each of the volunteers had been experiencing RRMS for 15 years or less, with continued relapses.
In a three month process starting with immunosuppressive therapy and varied chemotherapy their immune systems were destroyed. Next over a time-frame of four years they received transplants of millions of stem cells harvested from their own blood was used to rebuild their immune systems. Patients spent up to four weeks hospitalized waiting for their new immune systems to restart before being released.
The new ‘rebooted’ immune systems it was hoped would no longer result in MS attacks attacking the patients myelin sheath. According to their research paper published this is exactly what occurred in the majority of the patients. After three years since completion of the treatment some 86% of the patients had no relapses and 91% no sign of MS progression at all.
Improvement in the EDSS scores from baseline suggests that nerves may be remyelinating, the holy grail of MS research. Restoring myelin can repair damaged nerves, restoring their function.
Of course, treatments like this are not without harsh side effects, but the researchers reported that while those that cropped up were unpleasant, they weren’t unexpected. “Most early toxic effects were haematologic and gastrointestinal and were expected and reversible,” they wrote in the paper. The patients will continue to be monitored in case any of these side effects endure.
The team says it’s too soon to say whether stem cell treatment will end up being a standardized treatment for MS patients, but they’re now working on investigating how myelin is regrowing in their volunteers using MRI scans, and will further analyse the data captured by the study, now five years after its completion.