Infotech

Stem cell therapy in multiple sclerosis

A PIONEERING new stem cell treatment is allowing multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers to walk, run and even dance again, in results branded ‘miraculous’ by doctors.
Patients who have been wheelchair-bound for 10 years have regained the use of their legs in the groundbreaking therapy, while others who were blind can now see again.
The treatment, the first to reverse the symptoms of MS, has no cure, and affects around 100,000 people in Britain.
Immune systems ‘rebooted’
The two dozen patients, who are taking part in the trials at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and Kings College Hospital, London, have effectively had their immune systems ‘rebooted’.
Although it is unclear what causes MS, some doctors believe that it is the immune system itself which attacks the brain and spinal cord, leading to inflammation and pain, disability and in severe cases, death.
Therapy
In the new treatment, specialists use a high dose of chemotherapy to knock out the immune system before rebuilding it with stem cells taken from the patient’s own blood.
Stem cells are so effective because they can become any cell in the body based on their environment.
“Since we started treating patients three years ago, some of the results we have seen have been miraculous,” Professor Basil Sharrack, a consultant neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said.
“This is not a word I would use lightly, but we have seen profound neurological improvements.”
During the treatment, the patient’s stem cells are harvested and stored. Then doctors use aggressive drugs which are usually given to cancer patients to completely destroy the immune system.
The harvested stem cells are then infused back into the body where they start to grow new red and white blood cells within just two weeks.
Within a month the immune system is back up and run fully and that is when patients begin to notice that they are recovering.
Signs and symptoms
Multiple sclerosis signs and symptoms may differ greatly from person to person and over the course of the disease depending on the location of affected nerve fibers. Symptoms often affect movement, such as:
Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time, or the legs and trunk
Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
Vision problems are also common, including:
Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
Prolonged double vision
Blurry vision
Multiple sclerosis symptoms may also include:
Slurred speech
Fatigue
Dizziness
Tingling or pain in parts of your body
Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function
When to see a doctor
See a doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms for unknown reasons.
Disease course
Most people with MS have a relapsing-remitting disease course. They experience periods of new symptoms or relapses that develop over days or weeks and usually improve partially or completely. These relapses are followed by quiet periods of disease remission that can last months or even years.
Small increases in body temperature can temporarily worsen signs and symptoms of MS, but these aren’t considered disease relapses.
About 60 to 70 percent of people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually develop a steady progression of symptoms, with or without periods of remission, known as secondary-progressive MS.
The worsening of symptoms usually includes problems with mobility and gait. The rate of disease progression varies greatly among people with secondary-progressive MS.
Some people with MS experience a gradual onset and steady progression of signs and symptoms without any relapses. This is known as primary-progressive MS.
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