New Study: Stem cell transplant slows down MS progression

A preliminary clinical trial shows that stem cell transplantation, along with a tolerable dose of chemotherapy, is safe and more effective at slowing down multiple sclerosis than other existing therapies.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurodegenerative condition affecting about 400,000 individuals in the United States and over 2 million people across the globe.

According to the new clinical trial, 85 percent of these people have so-called relapse-remitting MS. This means that their symptoms often worsen during flare-up periods, but they also alternate with remission phases.

In MS, the body’s immune system does not recognize its own central nervous system, so it attacks myelin, the protective sheath around nerve cells.

While there is no known cure for MS, current treatment includes so-called disease-modifying therapies, such as interferons, glatiramer acetate, or monoclonal antibodies, which reduce inflammation and slow down the disease.

However, these therapies are not entirely effective. The latest trial also notes that after 2 years of treatment, between 30 and 50 percent of people have “no evidence of disease activity.” After 4 years of treatment, this drops to 18 percent.

This new research suggests that stem cell therapy may be a more effective way of slowing down the progression of the disease.

The trial was led by Dr. Richard K. Burt, from the Division of Immunotherapy at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL. The team set out to compare the effect of stem cell transplantation with that of conventional disease-modifying therapies on MS progression.

Dr. Burt and his colleagues published the results of their trial in the journal JAMA.

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