Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and causes a wide variety of symptoms. It is a lifelong condition with no cure. However, there are some treatments available out there and, in this blog, we aim to give a brief overview of one, haematopoietic stem cell transplant or HSCT.
Haematopoietic stem cell transplant is an “intense chemotherapy treatment for MS,” says the MS Society. “It aims to stop the damage MS causes by wiping out and then regrowing your immune system, using your stem cells.”
By ‘resetting’ the patient’s immune system, the hope is it can stop their immune system from attacking their central nervous system.
Haematopoietic stem cells are immature blood cells that can develop into any blood cells, including red and white. These cells can be found in three places…
- Adult bone marrow
- Peripheral blood
- Umbilical cord blood
For the transplant, the patient’s own bone marrow cells are used.
This treatment has been tested on individuals who suffer from both relapsing and progressive MS. Clinical trials have shown that HSCT can reduce relapses for where some people had their symptoms stabilise or get better and some had improvements in their disabilities. The only issue is that these improvements don’t always last.
For progressive MS there have been encouraging results for people if they are treated early and there are still signs of inflammation. HSCT has been shown to slow the worsening of the condition for some with early progressive MS. However, for those without the inflammation and those with a high level of disability, the treatment isn’t as successful.
Individuals who could benefit best from this treatment are those with frequent relapses even if they are (DMTs), are early on in their disease, are not significantly disabled, or have signs of active inflammation.
The whole process takes several stages – here is the simplified version but this video from HCAHealthcare has more details.
Stage 1 – Harvesting the stem cells
Stage 2 – A dose of Chemotherapy to wipe up the immune system and the stem cells are treated and stored.
Stage 3 – The stem cells are re-introduced into the body at which point you will be moved into isolation as you’re vulnerable to infection at this stage.
Stage 4 – Once you are done isolating you will then have follow-up appointments to ensure everything is going to plan
Something to keep in mind with this treatment is that it can take some time to show positive impacts due to the nature of the process.
As you can see, stem cells are incredible. They can currently treat over 80 conditions worldwide with further research and clinical trials revealing their potential. Although bone marrow and cord blood stem cells are different, cord blood cells have equally amazing possibilities. If you are curious about stem cell storage and how you can go about providing your family with this safety net, request your Welcome Pack below.
The further away in the family tree, the less likely that you can use that baby’s stem cells as the chances of even partially matching get smaller.
Connick, P., Kolappan, M., Crawley, C., Webber, D. J., Patani, R., Michell, A. W., Du, M. Q., Luan, S. L., Altmann, D. R., Thompson, A. J., Compston, A., Scott, M. A., Miller, D. H., & Chandran, S. (2012). Autologous mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: an open-label phase 2a proof-of-concept study. The Lancet. Neurology, 11(2), 150–156. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(11)70305-2
Burt, R. K., Balabanov, R., Burman, J., Sharrack, B., Snowden, J. A., Oliveira, M. C., Fagius, J., Rose, J., Nelson, F., Barreira, A. A., Carlson, K., Han, X., Moraes, D., Morgan, A., Quigley, K., Yaung, K., Buckley, R., Alldredge, C., Clendenan, A., Calvario, M. A., … Helenowski, I. B. (2019). Effect of Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation vs Continued Disease-Modifying Therapy on Disease Progression in Patients With Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA, 321(2), 165–174. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.18743
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