Latest Stem Cell Success – for “Incurable” Disease

by on February 18, 2016

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Multiple Sclerosis – “MS” – is a degenerative disease characterised by periodic remissions. But, the usual prognosis is that it is going to get progressively worse over time. So it is very encouraging indeed to hear about an MS patient who has improved markedly – through the use of stem cell therapy.

The Progress of Multiple Sclerosis

In Multiple Sclerosis the “myelin sheath” – the coating of the nerve cells – starts to degenerate, reducing the ability of the nerves to transmit messages. There is a huge range of symptoms varying from unusual sensations to a lack of ability to walk.

An additional sad point about MS is that it generally afflicts quite young people – predominantly those between 30-40 years old.

The remissions that characterise MS occur when the body just appears to overcome the symptoms temporarily and the sufferer will have a good spell – which could last weeks or months. Following this, the MS kicks in again.

The existing treatment for MS is very limited.

Stem Cell Treatment

Over the last 20 to 30 years we have seen some amazing results of using stem cells to help the body heal breakdown and trauma. So it was only a matter of time before it was used to help stimulate nerve cell growth.

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells have the incredible potential to develop into many different cell types. When a stem cell divides it can either remain as a stem cell or become another specialised body cell – such as a muscle cell, a brain cell, or a lung cell.

There was initially a furore over the source of stem cells being used – from the unneeded material left over from test-tube babies. However, improved techniques now permit most stem cells to be taken from the actual patient.

Using a patient’s own cells also has the benefit of certainty that the cells will not be rejected.

How Do They Do That?

You can visualise the ability of the stem cells to form any type of tissue if you consider what happens when a human being is created. Just one sperm cell combines with just one ovum cell. Then these two cells manage to produce every single tissue and organ in our body – from hair to toenails and everything in between. Now that’s differentiation for you!

So you can understand how stem cells harvested from our own body can be made into copies of any other cells in the body.

Of course, the science is at an early stage. But we can imagine that in 30-40 years the creation of whole new organs will be commonplace practice in medicine.

So, back to the Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis Benefits

“I started seeing changes within days of the stem cells being put in. It was a miracle” (Patient, Holly Drewry).

Incredibly, When Holly Drewry went into hospital she was wheeled in, in a wheelchair. When she came out, she walked. Then she walked into her house and hugged her baby daughter.

“I cried and cried. It was a bit overwhelming. It was a miracle.”

The hope from the medics is that this will be a permanent fix. Time will tell, of course… and we keep our fingers crossed.

More Incredible Results

Others have had fantastic results when their MS has been treated.

Steven Storey was a triathlete before being struck down with MS. He was left completely paralysed. He says: “I couldn’t flicker a muscle”.

After the treatment he could walk and ride a bike and within a year he managed to swim a mile.

Both these patients have been reviewed and they’ve been told there’s no evidence of active Multiple Sclerosis.

The Treatment IS Dramatic

This treatment is no easy fix. The person is actually given chemotherapy drugs usually reserved for cancer patients. The idea is to kill off the immune system – which sounds highly risky. But then the stem cells – their own stem cells – are introduced in an attempt to completely rebuild the immune system.

Following this, it takes just a month to get the immune system back up and fully functioning.

Early Days

Of course, these are early days for this treatment. We need to see the long-term benefits of these and other patients.

But it’s an extremely promising start for such a damaging disease.

Professor Basil Sharrack, a consultant neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospital which carries out some of these treatments says: “Since we started treating patients three years ago, some of the results have been miraculous. This is not a word I would use lightly but we have seen profound neurological improvements.”

This is fantastic for the Multiple Sclerosis patients. And it holds out hope for the use of stem cells to help people with all types of degenerative diseases.

Read more on the BBC Website .


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