Updated: Feb 2
As a company that provides centrifuges, stem cell kits, and other materials for regenerative medicine procedures, we are always on the lookout for good news in our field. As such, we were thrilled to learn about a revolutionary stem cell treatment that appears to reverse a debilitating neurological condition once thought to be a form of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The treatment has been administered to 12 study participants at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. All 12 exhibited signs of disease reversal in the short term. After five years, only two patients relapsed. The other 10 remained in remission.
Such amazing results are a truly remarkable achievement in the field of regenerative medicine. What makes them so impressive is that the stem cell injections caused a reversal of the disease rather than merely slowing it down or reducing its symptoms. We sincerely hope that future research verifies the results of this study and leads to a marketable therapy.
Blindness and Expensive Drug Therapies
The condition in question is known as neuromyelitis optica. It is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to react negatively against the central nervous system, particularly nerves in the eyes and spinal cord. Patients can suffer weakness or paralysis in the limbs, bowel and bladder dysfunction, vision impairment, and eventual blindness. Drug therapies to treat the disease can cost upwards of $500,000 annually.
What makes this particular disease so different from MS and other autoimmune diseases is an identifiable biological marker known as AQP4. The presence of that marker in a patient’s blood is a clear indication that he or she is suffering from the disease.
Fortunately, those patients treated by researchers at Northwestern University were found completely free of the marker. How is that possible? Through the use of hematopoietic stem cells. Such stem cells are the foundation of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), an experimental therapy that has shown to reverse three chronic diseases in addition to neuromyelitis optica.
How the Treatment Works
If you are familiar with autologous stem cell therapies like PRP and stem cell injections for osteoarthritis, you should have a basic understanding of HSCT therapy. An HSCT treatment starts with a blood or bone marrow draw from the patient being treated. Stem cells from the draw are concentrated and isolated while the patient’s immune system is wiped out via drug therapy.
Once the immune system has been properly addressed, stem cell material is then reintroduced to the patient’s body. The stem cells make their way to the bone marrow and essentially restart the immune system from scratch. The procedure is fairly straightforward in principle, though actually pulling it off can be complicated. It is dangerous for patients as well.
Despite the danger, patients living with debilitating neurological disorders seem to be willing to take the risks. And why not? If you are suffering from neuromyelitis optica, your future could include permanent blindness and eventual coma.
Stem Cells Revolutionizing Medicine
We are still a long way from marketable HSCT treatments for neurological conditions. But the ball has been set in motion. What we are seeing with all of the studies is something those of us in the regenerative medicine field have believed all along: stem cells are revolutionizing modern medicine.
It is studies like this that are giving doctors a good reason to look at adding stem cell and PRP therapies to their own practices. The studies give researchers ample motivation to continue looking into the potential of stem cells. It’s all good. And in the end, patients are the ones who benefit.