I intend this blog to be a mixture of my personal experiences with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and news related to MS. Hopefully, I can shed an optimistic light on MS even though it is difficult to be an optimist living with MS.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stem Cell Transplant to Treat MS

This has been somewhat of a hot topic lately.  In fact, I know a woman who has gone through this procedure of wiping out her immune system, just to have her body rebuild it.  That is part of the reason that I have yet to blog about the subject - I was hoping to have more information on her experience before posting.  However, I think I have waited long enough; I want to get the info out there, so here it is.

Excerpts from an article on MedicineNet.com:
Replacing bone marrow with the body's own stem cells may help patients with aggressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) go for years without seeing their disease progress, a new study shows.
Researchers in Greece are following a group of 35 patients who received experimental stem cell transplants for multiple sclerosis.
By purposefully wiping out the immune cells in a patient's bone marrow with chemotherapy and then repopulating it with healthy stem cells, researchers hope the body's immune system will stop attacking its own nerves, which eventually become so damaged from MS that they can't properly transmit signals.
That damage can lead to wide-ranging troubles, including problems with vision, speech, weakness, coordination of movement, numbness, and pain.

Following Stem Cell Transplants in MS

An average of 11 years after their transplants, 25% of the patients in Greece have not seen their disease progress, the researchers report.
Among patients with active lesions on MRI scans before their transplants, indicating that they were in an inflammatory phase of the disease, 44% have not progressed.
Only 10% of patients who went into the study without evidence of ongoing inflammation were able to remain disease free.
Two patients died from transplant-related complications.
"Keeping that in mind, our feeling is that stem cell transplants may benefit people with rapidly progressive MS," says study researcher Vasilios Kimiskidis, MD, of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Medical School, Greece, in a news release.
"This is not a therapy for the general population of people with MS but should be reserved for aggressive cases that are still in the inflammatory phase of the disease," he says.
Based on this report, []it now appears that at least some of that early benefit may not have been related to treatment[].

Best Candidates for Stem Cell Transplants

Stem cells have long been used to treat cancer patients, but they are still considered experimental in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.  But many believe they offer great hope.  "It's the only therapy to date that has been shown to reverse neurologic deficits," says Richard K. Burt, MD, chief of the division of medicine-immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "But you have to get the right group of patients."
In Burt's study, which was published in The Lancet in 2009, 17 out of 21 patients with relapsing-remitting MS improved after stem cell transplants, and none had gotten worse after an average of three years.
Another article, published in the February issue of Multiple Sclerosis Journal, shows that steps taken before the stem cells are transplanted back into the body may have an effect on how well the procedure works.
Before the stem cells can be reintroduced, patients go through a conditioning process with chemotherapy, either alone or in combination with radiation, in an attempt to wipe out their dysfunctional immune systems. That's called a high-intensity conditioning regimen.  But a different kind of conditioning, called intermediate-intensity or "mini" stem cell transplantation, doesn't try to kill off all of the errant immune system.
"There was a tendency for there to be longer progressive-free survival in the studies that used the intermediate-intensity regimens compared to those that used the high-intensity regimens," says James T. Reston, PhD, MPH, a research analyst in the Evidence-Based Practice Center at the ECRI Institute in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., an independent, nonprofit group that reviews evidence for experimental therapies.
Exciting news for those with more aggressive forms of MS!  Sounds very interesting, I can't wait to learn more about this developing treatment.  If anyone reading has gone through this process or knows someone who has, I would love to hear their experiences!!!


  1. This sounds promising but scary. Probably hopeful for those with aggressive MS!

  2. wow , sounds good admit I dismissed the idea of stem cell therapy few years ago, when I first heard of it, but now I am beginning to believe it might be of benefit.