Stem cell research is making medical breakthroughs, and now, it could offer hope to people who have multiple sclerosis.
A new National Institutes of Health study suggests one-time stem cell transplants might be more effective than long-term medicinal treatment at treating relapsing-remitting MS.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that causes a person's immune system to attack their central nervous system. Common symptoms are impaired motor function, weakness and chronic pain. Relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form of the disease.
Stem cells are cells that haven't decided what they want to be when they grow up. That means they can develop into different types of cells. Because of that, they can be used to heal older damaged cells, like those attacked by the immune system.
The study followed 24 people who weren't having success with the typical MS medications. The experimental treatment suppressed participants' immune systems with chemotherapy. Then, their own stem cells were transplanted back into their bodies to rebuild their immune systems.
Five years after treatment, most participants' symptoms were in remission. Some of them even showed some improvements.
Larger studies will be needed to confirm these findings. But the head of the study said it's a good first step toward more effective treatment for an incredibly debilitating and deadly disease.