“Researchers reported encouraging results for a stem cell transplant for multiple sclerosis (MS) that some doctors and patients hope will be a breakthrough for MS treatment.
In a presentation at the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation held in Lisbon, Portugal, scientists said that people with certain forms of MS showed fewer relapses after receiving a stem cell transplant for MS than those who received other treatments.
The study involved 110 people with relapsing multiple sclerosis, a condition in which cells in the immune system start to inexplicably attack the critical covering that protects nerve cells in the spinal cord, brain and eye. Without the coating, nerves gradually lose their ability to send important electrical messages that control things like movement and vision. In the study, people were randomly assigned to receive current treatments for the disease, which can help slow the progression of the immune-driven damage to the nerve cells, or a stem cell transplant.
People in the stem cell transplant group received chemotherapy to wipe out most of their current immune cells that were wrongly attacking neurons. They then took special medications to coax their stem cells, which produce the entire population of immune cells, out of the bone marrow and into the blood to start churning out new immune cells. After approximately three years, about 6% of the stem cell group experienced relapses, while 60% of the people in the control group receiving standard treatment relapsed.
It’s not clear why the immune system in people with MS starts attacking its own nerve cells. But the idea of rebooting the immune system with healthy cells is one that is proving very effective in other fields as well. In cancer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a similar strategy in which the immune cells causing certain leukemias are destroyed and replaced with genetically engineered cells that now recognize and can destroy cancer cells…” – article by Alice Park, on time.com