80% of MS Patients Disease-Free After aHSCT Study
In a recent study, researchers evaluated the potential efficacy of stem cell therapy in multiple sclerosispatients. Notably, 80% of MS patients were permanently or semi-permanently disease-free following the autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant (aHSCT).
More specifically, researchers studied how T-cells respond to this particular form of treatment. In healthy individuals, T-cells are intended to identify and fight new infections in the body. In MS patients, however, T-cells accidentally target parts of the brain and spinal cord, leading to chronic inflammation.
The study revealed that aHSCT led to the regeneration of T-cells in MS patients—immune cells that do not appear to trigger MS, nor cause the disease to return. Researchers pointed out that understanding the dynamics of T-cell recovery after aHSCT can lead to an enhanced understanding of “the mechanisms mediating the efficacy of aHSCT in patients with MS.”
What Is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative, potentially disabling immune disease of the central nervous system. This chronic disease impacts the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. In affected individuals, MS can present the following symptoms:
- Hearing loss
- Memory loss
- Impaired vision
- Speech problems
- Emotional or personality changes
- Issues with coordination
- Sensation issues
- Limited mobility
In extreme cases, MS can result in severe nerve damage that can cause tremors, seizures, and other cognitive problems.
The degenerative effects of multiple sclerosis are caused by the breakdown of the myelin sheath (the protective coating around nerve fibers), which in turn impairs communication between the brain and other parts of the body.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy (aHSCT) Affect MS Patients?
Stem cell therapy or aHSCT is a treatment believed to “reset” the body’s immune system. The process itself entails the following 3 steps:
- Collecting stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow or blood;
- Using chemotherapy or radiation to wipe out the patient’s immune system; and lastly,
- Infusing the stem cells back into the body to repopulate the immune system.
While stem cell therapy is believed to be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis, particularly in young patients with highly active MS, it’s worth mentioning that this particular treatment is not yet approved in many countries, including the United States.
This is largely due to a lack of Phase 3 clinical trials, as additional research and funds are required to truly evaluate the safety and efficacy of aHSCT as a treatment method, particularly in individuals with MS.
Limitations of Treating MS with Stem Cell Therapy
While previous studies have already shown the basic workings of stem cell therapy as a form of treatment, researchers have also acknowledged that “many important details and questions [remain] open.”
While experts are optimistic about the efficacy of stem cell transplants in the future, they have also identified certain limitations of this study, including insufficient knowledge about long-term potential changes in the immune system following aHSCT treatment.
Nonetheless, MS patients and their loved ones can take heart in the fact that the medical community is making big strides in the journey to cure MS and other debilitating conditions that millions of Americans struggle with today.
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