NRL News

Pioneering use of adult stem cells is making huge improvement in the condition of MS patients

by | Mar 3, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

Recovery: MS sufferer Holly Drewery became wheelchair-bound after the birth of daughter Isla, but thanks to the stem cell transplant she can dance, run and chase after Isla in the park

Recovery: MS sufferer Holly Drewery became wheelchair-bound after the birth of daughter Isla, but thanks to the stem cell transplant she can dance, run and chase after Isla in the park

If we’ve written once about the successful uses of adult stem cells, we’ve probably written 50 times, demonstrating that ethically unobjectionable adult stem cells are far superior in practice to stem cells taken from embryonic human beings.

When it comes to making a difference in people’s lives, adult stem cells– isolated from many different tissues, including bone marrow, blood, muscle, fat, and umbilical cord blood–are the gold standard.

The latest evidence comes courtesy of a story in the Daily Mail. In typical Daily Mail fashion the headline is anything but understated: “Dancing, walking and running again, the wheelchair-bound MS patients after they were given ‘miraculous’ stem cell treatment.”

But while the headline over Fiona Macrae’s story seems a bit overstated, her story quietly demonstrates that real progress is being made in treating multiple sclerosis, a devastating disease. I asked David Prentice, an expert on stem cells of all kinds, what he thought of the study, lead by Professor Basil Sharrack, of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. He told NRL News Today

This is another gratifying example of the successful application of adult stem cells. Prof. Sharrack and colleagues are to be congratulated for undertaking this study, which has shown extremely promising results. Their publication of the data in the Journal of the American Medical Association adds even more evidence to the already-substantial successes for adult stem cell treatments for patients. The protocol they use, pioneered by Dr. Richard Burt at Northwestern University (who is also a co-author on the JAMA paper), involves harvest and purification of some of the patient’s bone marrow adult stem cells, then chemotherapy to kill the rogue immune cells that are causing the autoimmune problem of multiple sclerosis, followed by re-infusion of the patient’s adult stem cells. The patient’s adult stem cells “reboot” their immune and blood system, and also seem to facilitate some repair of the nervous system.

There are also two hurtles that are bypassed. By using the patient’s own cells, you’ve precluded transplant rejection. Moreover, unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells carry no concern of tumors.

Macrae’s story provides two encouraging examples.

Holly Drewery was plagued with numbness and blurred vision. She was diagnosed with MS. Her health grew worse, as Macrae writes.

She became wheelchair-bound after her health worsened on Isla’s [her daughter’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.’

Another patient, Sam Ramsey, was paralysed from the neck down by MS after she collapsed when out celebrating her 22nd birthday.

Nothing worked until the adult stem cell treatment. Now she can walk on crutches and can drive.

“This treatment has given me my life back,” she told the Sunday Times. “’This is not a word I would use lightly but we have seen profound neurological improvements.”

Of course more follow-up must be done to ensure that the amazing progress is not short-lived. But toward the very end of the story comes this very encouraging secondary improvement:

As well as stopping the disease in its tracks the treatment, known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation, seems to heal damage that has already been done.

Categories: Adult Stem Cells