It's been five years since researchers at Northwestern Medical School in Chicago began trying adult stem cell transplants on autoimmune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis.
Barry Goudy, an MS sufferer for almost 50 years, joined the study when it started. The procedure called for patients like Barry to undergo chemotherapy to destroy his immune cells and then get a transplant of his own stem cells or bone marrow, to rebuild his immune system. Five years later, Mr. Goudy says, "I have no symptoms of MS. I do no treatment for MS, I do no shots."
Dr. Richard Burt, M.D. of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine adds that, "It's a whole new approach to these diseases. Rather than just surgery or drugs that you can use, a cellular approach that seems in many different studies to be benefitting the patient. There's very low risk. Less than 1% mortality from the procedure."
Dr. Burt and his colleagues at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine reviewed the outcomes of about 2500 Patients who have tried adult stem cell transplants. They found that the transplant appears to be putting some patients with autoimmune diseases in remission. Researchers don't know yet how long it will last. So far, it is even offering some improvement in heart function to patients who have suffered heart attacks.
This research is in the current issue of JAMA, the journal of the American medical association. UMC's Southwest Cancer Center is doing the same procedure for cancer patients who give stem cells to themselves or from non-related donors.
Unlike embryonic stem cells that result in the destruction of an embryo, adult stem cells come from your own blood or bone marrow or from someone else. The transplant appears to be safe. Stem cell clinical trials for liver disease have recently started and trials for cerebrovascular disease and spinal cord injuries are being considered.
If you would like more information about where these trials are taking place and how to get involved you can log on to: www.clinicaltrials.gov .