A recent study that involved combined treatment of chemotherapy and stem treatment therapy has halted the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) in a group of patients. This is according to some pioneering technique that involved the complete destruction of the immune systems of the patients as described in the study that was published in the journal The Lancet.
24 participants aging between 18 and 50 were chosen for the experiment and had been given poor prognoses: their medical condition was currently having or would have future severe effects in their lives. The 24 went for the trial treatment. 23 of the participants have shown no signs of MS and no longer suffer from relapses. Some have even been able to recover back their mobility in terms of body movement. The 24th patient lost her life due to the procedure. The trial treatment seems to have a lot of limitations and it lacked a control group, still the medical world has received the findings with a lot positivity and a huge breakthrough in coming up with treatment for MS.
Dr. Mark Freedman, the Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Unit at Ottawa Hospital who happens to be the coordinator of the study, speaking to the Guardian, said that it cannot be concluded to be the cure for MS, since a cure would mean repairing all damage caused by MS and stopping the disease from moving forward. Which is still undetermined? MS is a medical condition caused by the body, when the body’s immune system malfunctions, it damages the linings of the nerve cells found in the brain and the spinal cord. This means that the central nervous system is damaged and is not able to send commands to the other body parts and organs. Symptoms of MS consist of problems in vision, body balance, body movements and processing thoughts. The condition has been found to be more prevalent in women than in men. The treatment is very complicated and difficult and mostly depends on the immune system of the patient and the condition of the illness.
The use of conventional chemotherapy is intended to suppress the immune system of the patient so that the destructive attack on the body’s nerve cells is slowed down and reduced. Stem cells that had been harvested from the patient’s body are then introduced back into the patient’s blood stream with the hope of creating a new immune system. The stems cells are purified to remove those that are suspected of causing the MS infection again. After some time, the stem cells start to rebuild the body immune system and transform into new cells that are not programmed to destroy the patient’s nerve cells. The method has proved to be effective, but still patients have been observed to experience relapse in MS a few years later. The whole idea behind the study is to give the stem cells a chance rebuild a whole new immune system that will not be able to trigger MS. The patient, who died, was due to a bacterial infection that lead to blood poisoning and severe liver damage. The world today finds its population very vulnerable to life threatening diseases. Statistics show that over 2.3 million people are believed to be suffering from MS round the world. The treatment indeed needs more investigation, but we cannot deny the fact that it offers the MS patients hope that the condition can be slowed down or ultimately stopped before it gets critical.