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article imageNew ‘miracle’ stem cell therapy reverses multiple sclerosis

By Stephen Morgan     Mar 2, 2015 in Health
A new stem cell therapy, being described as nothing short of "miraculous," will bring hope and comfort to sufferers of multiple sclerosis and their close ones.
This mysterious illness, which seems to choose its victims by random, and whose cause is unknown, has baffled doctors for decades. The medical community has struggled unsuccessfully to adequately treat or reverse this condition, whose relentless degeneration seems to be unstoppable.
Consequently, sufferers have mostly had to rely on coping methods and medications, which only manage to mitigate some of its symptoms. The illness can cause paralysis, motor function loss, memory loss and blindness.
That may all be changing. A new "miracle" stem cell therapy has proven successful in not only stopping the disease, but in reversing its symptoms. According to the Telegraph, the new treatment
is allowing multiple sclerosis sufferers to walk, run and even dance again....Patients who have been wheelchair-bound for 10 years have regained the use of their legs... while others who were blind can now see again.
The pioneering treatment was carried out in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, UK. The Mail Online quotes the chief surgeon, Professor Basil Sharrack, who said
"Since we started treating patients some three years ago some of the results have been miraculous."
He added, "This is not a word I would use lightly but we have seen profound neurological improvements."
The treatment involved two dozen patients and the results have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Healthline lists some of the main causes and symptoms of the disease,
"Symptoms vary a great deal from one patient to another—no two people have the same combination of symptoms. Approximately 45 percent of people diagnosed with MS don’t have severe symptoms.
The most common early symptoms of MS are:
  • fatigue
  • vision problems
  • tingling and numbness
  • muscle weakness, muscle spasms
  • problems with balance and coordination
Other, less common symptoms include:
  • speech and swallowing problems
  • cognitive dysfunction
  • bladder and bowel dysfunction
  • sexual dysfunction
  • mood swings, depression"
  • While all the causes are not known, Healthline explains the main ones, which are understood,
    "Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterized by damage to the myelin sheath. This protective covering surrounds the nerves of the central nervous system (brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord). The damage is caused by inflammation. Damaged areas undergo gliosis (scarring). Lesions or scars (called plaques) may be scattered throughout the central nervous system.
    "The destruction of myelin interferes with nerve conduction. The symptoms of MS relate to this interruption of signaling between neurons (nerves of the central nervous system). Damage to the underlying axons is likely to cause irreversible disability and was originally believed to occur late in the disease."
    High resolution image from a normal volunteer (left) and a patient suffering from multiple sclerosis...
    High resolution image from a normal volunteer (left) and a patient suffering from multiple sclerosis (right).
    UBC MRI Research Centre
    The UK treatment begins by taking stems cells from the patient and saving them for later. Then, chemotherapy is administered to eradicate the patient's existing immune system.
    Later, the harvested stem cells are put back into the body and they begin to form new white and red blood cells. These cells then recreate a new healthy immune system. Once the immune system is operating normally, the patients start to see massive improvements in their condition.
    However, the Telegraph quotes Prof Sharrack, who advises that,
    "This is not a treatment that is suitable for everybody because it is very aggressive and patients need to be quite fit to withstand the effects of the chemotherapy."
    Nevertheless, the results so far have been quite amazing. The Mail Online reported on one of the patients, Holly Drewery, 25.
    "Today, Holly Drewery can run after her daughter Isla."
    "Two years ago," the paper says "she could take her for a walk only if someone pushed her wheelchair while she held on to Isla’s pushchair."
    "She became wheelchair-bound after her health worsened on Isla’s birth. She needed help with basic tasks and couldn’t even wiggle her toes."
    "Three weeks after the stem cell transplant she was able to walk out of hospital."
    "Now, more than 18 months on, she is almost back to normal. She has a part-time office job and, although she still gets tired, can dance, run and chase after Isla, two, in the park."
    "She said: ‘All I wanted to be able to do is take Isla out. It worked wonders. I am more or less back to normal."
    More research and follow up will be needed, because MS sufferers can experience temporary remission. Even so, the success rate is impressive and similar studies are taking place in other countries.
    It estimated that some 400,000 people have the disease in the US, 100,000 in the UK and 2.5 million worldwide.
    Dr Sorrel Bickley, Research Communications Manager at the MS Society, issued a statement about the results,
    “This new study reports very encouraging findings, which add to a growing body of research into stem cell transplantation in MS....."
    "Momentum in this area of research is building rapidly and we're eagerly awaiting the results of larger, randomised trials and longer term follow up data."
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