Multiple Sclerosis could be treated through a new strategy of replacing bone marrow with the body's own stem cells, claim researchers in Greece.
The research team from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Medical School in Greece kept track of 35 patients who had received stem cell transplants and observed how the aggressive form of the disease was halted in its progress. The process known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) involved removing the immune cells in the bone marrow of a patient and replacing it with healthy stem cells. This was expected to stop the immune system from attacking its own nerves.
The study reports that 80 percent of patients receiving HSCT treatment had stabilized disease after five years. After 15 years, 25 per cent of the 35 patients have been stabilized. Only 2 participants died due to complication resulting from the transplant.
Study researcher Vasilios Kimiskidis states that this strategy should not be administered to everyone, but only to those who have the aggressive form of the disease. It needs to be viewed as a "salvage" therapy for the severest form of MS.
Richard Nash, MD, an oncologist and member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, analyzes that it can be difficult for researchers to tell if an improvement would have happened naturally or if it is the result of treatment because patients sometimes go through periods where their disease appears to be dormant before it becomes active again.
Many studies looking into stem cell transplants are being done which will offer, it is hoped, more conclusive results. Till then, the treatment would have to be considered experimental in MS.