A new stem cell treatment that reboots the entire immune system is enabling multiple sclerosis sufferers to walk, run and even dance again, in results branded “miraculous” by doctors.
Patients who have been wheelchair-bound for 10 years have regained the use of their legs in the ground-breaking therapy, while others who were blind can now see again. The treatment is the first to reverse the symptoms of MS, which is incurable, and affects about 100,000 people in Britain.
The two dozen patients who are taking part in the trials at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, and Kings College Hospital, London, have effectively had their immune systems “rebooted”. Although it is unclear what causes MS, some doctors believe that it is the immune system itself that attacks the brain and spinal cord, leading to inflammation pain, disability and, in severe cases, death.
In the new treatment, specialists use a high dose of chemotherapy to knock out the immune system before rebuilding it with stem cells taken from the patient’s own blood. “Since we started treating patients three years ago, some of the results we have seen have been miraculous,” Prof Basil Sharrack, a consultant neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, told The Sunday Times.
“This is not a word I would use lightly, but we have seen profound neurological improvements.” Holly Drewry, 25, of Sheffield, was wheelchair bound after the birth of her daughter Isla, now two. But she claims the new treatment has transformed her life.
“It worked wonders,” she said. “I remember being in the hospital… after three weeks, I called my mum and said: ‘I can stand’. We were all crying. I can run a little bit, I can dance. I love dancing, it is silly but I do. ” However, specialists warn that patients need to be fit to benefit from the new treatment. “This is not a treatment that is suitable for everybody because it is very aggressive and patients need to be quite fit to withstand the effects of the chemotherapy,” warned Prof Sharrack.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
'Miraculous' stem cell treatment may reverse symptoms of multiple sclerosis