MS: Stem Cell Transplant Stops It in Its Tracks


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Multiple Sclerosis, MS, impacts almost a million Americans. It’s one of the leading causes of disability among young people in the United States. There are several medications to control the symptoms but nothing to stop it from progressing, that is until now. Stem Cell Transplant

Multiple sclerosis is slowly stealing Kathy Miska’s independence and ability to walk.

Right now, I have a lot of numbness in my hands and the bottoms of my feet are very numb,” she says.

Those are just a few of the symptoms MS patients experience. There are more than 20 FDA-approved drugs to relieve symptoms. For many patients, they are on these drugs for life.

UCI Health neurologist, Dr. Michael Sy, MD says, “Some of these medications are very effective in reducing the number of relapses that do occur.”

(Read Full Interview)

But nothing stops the progression.

“It is frustrating when we see patients declining and can’t do much more for them,” he adds

Now, Dr. Sy is part of a handful of doctors in the world using an experimental leading-edge stem cell transplant to fight MS.

Dr. Sy explains, “Bone marrow transplant offers the opportunity to just completely reset the immune system.”

AHSCT is an immunosuppressive therapy that involves harvesting a patient’s own blood stem cells. The patient’s immune system is wiped out using chemo then, the stem cells are reinfused into the patient.

“Eighty percent of the time, patients no longer have relapses,” Dr. Sy mentions.

No more relapses, no more medication, and for 65% of the patients, the progression stops, potentially life-changing for millions.

Because the stem cell transplant therapy allows patients to get off all their medications, in the long run, researchers believe this will not only be lifesaving, but also cost effective. MS drugs can cost up to $100,000 a year. The transplant can cost up to $300,000, so in about three to four years, the transplant covers the cost of drugs. There is one major clinical trial in the U.S and another clinical trial ongoing in Europe.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5155

BACKGROUND: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves. Nearly one million people in the United States are affected by MS. It’s estimated that more than 2.8 million people are living with MS worldwide according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The majority of people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 years, but it can occur at any age.


DIAGNOSING: To make a diagnosis, a healthcare provider would gather information about birthplace, family history, environmental exposures, history of other illnesses and places traveled that might provide further clues, and then, perform a comprehensive neurologic exam, which includes tests of cranial nerves (vision, hearing, facial sensation, strength, swallowing), sensation, reflexes, coordination, walking and balance. Some of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include fatigue, vision problems, numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, bladder or bowel problems, and/or speech and swallowing difficulties.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The National Medical Advisory Committee of the National MS Society has written an article reviewing evidence related to the optimal use of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT, commonly known as bone marrow transplants) for the treatment of specific types of relapsing multiple sclerosis. AHSCT attempts to “reboot” the immune system, which is responsible for damaging the brain and spinal cord in MS. In HSCT for MS, hematopoietic (blood cell-producing) stem cells, which are derived from a person’s own (scientifically referred to as “autologous”) blood or bone marrow, are collected and stored prior to depleting much of the immune system using chemotherapy drugs. Then the stored stem cells are reintroduced to the body. The new stem cells migrate to the bone marrow and over time reconstitute the immune system.



John Murray

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. Michael Sy, MD

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