New Experimental Adult Stem Cell Treatment Helps Those With MS

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Dec 31, 2014   |   4:42PM   |   Washington, DC

There maybe new hope for the millions of patients worldwide that suffer from multiple sclerosis, better known as MS. MS is a debilitating and progressive disease where a patient’s own immune system attacks the protective covering around the cells of the nervous system. This causes a wide range of varying and unpredictable symptoms including fatigue, decreased mobility, and visual disturbances.

There is no cure for MS. Often patients are put on drugs that suppress the immune system to try and slow progression of the disease.

Researchers have published a study of a handful of MS patients in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology that indicates immunosuppressive drugs in combination with an adult stem cell transplant may significantly improve the treatment. These stem cells came from the patient’s own body, and, in combination with high-dose immunosuppressive therapy, the majority of the 24 patients in the study experienced benefits. CBSNews has the details:

disabled5The researchers found that nearly 79 percent of the patients who underwent the procedure sustained full neurologic function for the three years following the treatment and symptoms of their disease did not progress. Additionally, patients in that time period did not develop any new lesions related to their disease.

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More than 90 percent of patients did not experience disease progression, while 86 percent did not have any periods of relapse. Though a small number of patients did have side effects from the immunosuppressive drugs, they were no different than the side effects typically experienced by MS patients taking the drugs who haven’t undergone stem cell therapy.

“Longer follow-up is needed to determine the durability of the response,” the authors write in the study. “Careful comparison of the results of this investigation and other ongoing studies will be needed to identify the best approaches for high-dose immunosuppressive therapies for MS and plan the next clinical studies.”

This study is only three years into the five year trial period, but this is potentially good news for those diagnosed with MS. Adult stem cell transplants maybe particularly helpful for those who do not respond to normal drug therapies.  More research is needed since adult stem cell transplants for the treatment of MS is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If this small study can be replicated, adult stem cells maybe on their way to helping even more patients that suffer from debilitating disease.