Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stem Cell Research Yields Promising Results

A study done at the Northern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, has tweaked a treatment normally reserved for patients with progressive MS, for whom there weren't any other treatment options. Dr. Richard K. Burt used the modified technique for relapse remitting patients who were younger and did not respond to treatment from interferon.

Dr. Burt basically stripped the patient's body of immune cells and then repopulated it with stem cells from his/her bone marrow. Says Patricia O'Looney, vice president of biomedical research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, "You're trying to wipe out the immune system and then, with one's own cells, reconstitute it with the hope that the new cells will not target myelin. That's the theory, get rid of bad cells and reconstitute it with new cells from one's own body so hopefully they haven't been triggered yet to attach to myelin." Essentially, Dr. Burt is rebooting the immune system. It sounds pretty ambitious.

But results have been encouraging. For all 17 patients, three years after the procedure was performed, no one's disease is progressing, 16 were no longer relapsing and some had experienced improvements. The findings will appear in the March issue of "The Lancet Neurology." Ever in the pragmatic frame of mind, specialists are holding celebration until further studies can be done.

"We need to see a larger number of samples... and [we need to] know if the benefit they're seeing is due to the immune system being reset or because the immune system has been suppressed and will return as the way it was," said O'Looney.
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