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Study Shows Improvements in MS Patients Who Replace Bone Marrow With Stem Cells

Posted Mar 22 2011 12:00am

By Brenda Goodman
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by  Laura J. Martin, MD

March 21, 2011 -- Replacing bone marrow with the body’s own stem cells may help patients with aggressive forms of  multiple sclerosis (MS) go for years without seeing their disease progress, a new study shows.Researchers in Greece are following a group of 35 patients who received experimental stem cell  transplants  for multiple sclerosis.By purposefully wiping out the immune cells in a patient’s bone marrow with chemotherapy  and then repopulating it with healthy stem cells, researchers hope the body’s immune system will stop attacking its own nerves, which eventually become so damaged from MS that they can’t properly transmit signals.That damage can lead to wide-ranging troubles, including problems with  vision , speech, weakness, coordination of movement, numbness, and pain.According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 400,000 Americans and 2.1 million people worldwide have MS. Following Stem Cell Transplants in MSAn average of 11 years after their transplants, 25% of the patients in Greece have not seen their disease progress, the researchers report.Among patients with active lesions on  MRI  scans before their transplants, indicating that they were in an inflammatory phase of the disease, 44% have not progressed.Only 10% of patients who went into the study without evidence of ongoing inflammation were able to remain disease free.Two patients died from transplant-related complications.“Keeping that in mind, our feeling is that stem cell transplants may benefit people with rapidly progressive MS,” says study researcher Vasilios Kimiskidis, MD, of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Medical School, Greece, in a news release.“This is not a therapy for the general population of people with MS but should be reserved for aggressive cases that are still in the inflammatory phase of the disease,” he says. CONTINUE READING
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