Stem Cell Transplant Reverses Disabling MS-like Disease
A stem cell transplant has reversed a debilitating neurological disorder that leaves more than 50% of the affected people blind or unable to walk a few years after diagnosis.
Following the transplant, most of the patient enjoyed a better quality of life and were also able to avoid annual medication-related costs estimated at $500,000. This is according to a study by the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine.
The disease which is neuromyelitis optica was initially classified as a rare subtype of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, it is now regarded as a separate disease.
Unlike most autoimmune diseases, this new condition has a biological marker (AQP4). The marker is said to correlate with the disease activity. Experts say that following the transplant, the AQP4 marker is no longer noticed in the blood.
According to lead author Dr. Richard Burt, who is also a medical professor of immunotherapy and autoimmune disease at Northwestern University, no prior medication or therapy has been able to eliminate AQP4 in human blood leave alone let patients live with no regular treatments.
The doctor goes further to state that there is a significant difference between the drug and a transplant. Apart from boosting the patient’s neurological disability, the transplant also improved their quality of life. He says that the patients get better and the biological marker AQP4 disappeared for at least five years after the transplant.
Mayo Clinic (Rochester) which holds the patent for the disease marker AQP4 was responsible for the biological marker analysis but collaborated with Northwestern and Burt.
In the study, 12 people living with neuromyelitis optical received the stem cell transplant.
According to Dr. Burt, after the study period of 5 years, only 2 of all the participants developed complications and had to rely on drug therapy.
According to reports, this is not the 1st chronic condition that has been reversed via hematopoietic cell transplant or HSCT.
The goal of this process is to repair a faulty immune system.
During HSCT, doctors take stem cells from the patient’s blood or bone marrow. The patient’s immune system is then wiped clean through chemotherapy. The stem cells are then reintroduced back into the patient’s body. The cells move to the bone marrows, rebooting the immune system.
Early this year, Dr Burt published a study in JAMA indicating that hematopoietic cell plant helped reverse neurologic disability. The study also showed that patients who underwent HSCT did not show evidence of new disease activity in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
According to Burt, HSCT has also helped reverse conditions such as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and systemic sclerosis.