Stem cells may help treat aggressive MS

For the treatment of MS, the immune cells in a patient’s bone marrow are removed using chemotherapy.

Washington: Replacing bone marrow with the body’s own stem cells may hold some hope for patients with aggressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a long-term Greek study.

For the treatment, the immune cells in a patient’s bone marrow are removed using chemotherapy. The ‘removed’ cells are then purified and transplanted back into the body, which saves life by replacing the blood cells and also is proposed to ‘reboot’ the immune system.

The study involved people with rapidly progressive MS who had tried a number of other treatments for MS with little or no effect.

Researchers of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Medical School, Greece, followed 35 people, all severely disabled by the disease, for an average of 11 years after transplant.

After the transplants, the probability of participants having no worsening of their disease for 15 years was 25 percent. The probability was higher for those who had active brain lesions, which are a sign of disease activity, at the time of the transplant.

For 16 people, symptoms improved by an average of one point on the scale after the transplant, and the improvements lasted for an average of two years.

The participants also had a reduction in the number and size of lesions in their brains.

Two people (six percent) died from complications related to the transplant at two months and 2-1/2 years post-transplant.

Study author Vasilios Kimiskidis, however, cautioned that more research was needed on the treatment.

“Our feeling is that stem cell transplants may benefit people with rapidly progressive MS,” he said.

“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 added.

The study is published in March 22 print issue of Neurology.