Risky new stem cell therapy 'could help recovery from MS'

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

A new stem cell therapy has been devised that could be used to provide greater control over multiple sclerosis (MS) than was previously thought to be possible.

Led by University of Ottawa researchers, the study examined the benefits of using aggressive chemotherapy followed by autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation to improve outcomes for MS patients.

“A high-risk stem cell transplantation method has shown potential to help halt multiple sclerosis symptoms in the long term.“

As MS is a nervous condition, many current therapy approaches involve suppressing the immune system, but this extreme new strategy uses chemotherapy to destroy it completely. As such, it is a high-risk approach with a high mortality rate.

However, in the current study, it was shown to fully halt clinical relapses and the development of new brain lesions in 23 of 24 MS patients for a prolonged period without the need for ongoing medication.

Eight of the 23 patients had a sustained improvement in their disability 7.5 years after treatment. It is the first therapeutic approach to deliver this level of disease control and neurological recovery, but the risks could limit its widespread use.

Dr Mark Freedman from the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa said: "Future research will be directed at reducing the risks of this treatment, as well as understanding which patients would best benefit from the treatment."

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