This Could Be Game-Changing News in the Battle Against Multiple Sclerosis

Posted: February 2, 2015 at 11:43 am

Source: Flickr user Dominik Golenia.

For a disease that affects more than 400,000 people in the United States and approximately 2.5 million around the globe, multiple sclerosis is arguably not getting its fair share of attention from drug developers and researchers. According to the National Institutes of Health, which has an annual budget near $40 billion, only $115 million is expected to be spent on MS research in 2015.

What makes MS a particularly scary disease -- beyond just its more serious complications like loss of vision and/or paralysis -- is that there are a number of unknowns even after decades of research. For example, scientists are still uncertain what causes MS, although they have a hunch it has to do with some combination of genetics and environmental factors, since the rate of MS prevalence above the 37th parallel is about to double what it is below the 37th parallel.

In recent years, MS diagnoses have been on the rise, although researchers simply attribute this to earlier diagnosis and better detection of the disease. MS can strike anyone at any age, but it's most often diagnosed when people are between the ages of 20 and 40.

Clearly, MS patients need help now, and not just in curbing their symptoms, but in actually finding ways to stop or reverse their disease. Thankfully, new research out of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine just might offer some game-changing and positive news.

Potentially game-changing news for select MS patients Based on a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Richard Burt and his team at Northwestern University, utilizing nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation resulted in substantial improvements in select MS patients' quality of life and neurological disability.

Source: Flickr user LWP Kommunikacio.

What's hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, or HSCT? It's the process whereby researchers harvest a user's own stem cells from their bone marrow or peripheral blood (stem cells can come from a donor as well), and subsequently infuse these potent stem cells back into the body in an effort to get an MS patients' immune system back onto the right track.

For its study, Northwestern University researchers examined 123 patients with relapse-remitting MS and 28 with secondary progressive MS who had been previously treated with HSCT. At a median of 30 months following treatment, researchers observed that 64% of those tested at the 48-month mark had demonstrated significant Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) scores, as well as 50% of those tested at the 24-month mark. This marked the first true long-term and sustainable improvement in EDSS scores recorded in a clinical study involving MS.

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This Could Be Game-Changing News in the Battle Against Multiple Sclerosis

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