Several hospitals around the world (United States, Brazil, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have been taking part in an international study since 2006 in order to “evaluate the long-term effects of stem cell transplantation”. In this respect, the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, United Kingdom, has tested a treatment for multiple sclerosis patients.
Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease that affects the central nervous system, especially the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. The immune system of those affected destroys myelin by viewing it as a foreign body. Thus, in certain places in the nervous system, the impulses are slower or completely blocked, leading to various symptoms such as numbness, muscle spasms, lack of mobility or imbalance.
The treatment tested in the United Kingdom comprises a “haematopoietic stem cell transplant” (HSCT), which is performed following chemotherapy. Doctors collect a small quantity of the patient’s haematopoietic stem cells in a blood sample, freeze them in order to preserve them and then readminister them intravenously after chemotherapy. The transplant allows the patient to reconstruct his/her blood and immune system following chemotherapy.
Out of the twenty patients treated, “those who were paralysed were able to walk again”. Professor Basil Sharrack at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital welcomed this “major success”. Doctors are optimistic but remain cautious, “the tests have shown that the marrow transplant may be able to stabilise or improve a disability for some patients with multiple sclerosis. It may, however, prove ineffective for other diseases”.
Studies are continuing to evaluate the “safety of the procedure and its long-term effects”.
 Myelin forms a sheath, which surrounds nerve fibres thereby protecting them and accelerating the transmission of messages or nervous impulses.
 Haematopoietic stem cells are multipotent adult stem cells taken from the bone marrow.
Daily mail (18/01/2016)