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New stem cell treatment ‘halts’ effects of multiple sclerosis

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A trial uses an aggressive form of chemotherapy to treat multiple sclerosis

Most patients ceased development of new brain lesions, but one died from the treatment

CNN —  

Chemotherapy, combined with stem cell transplants, could halt the onslaught of multiple sclerosis in people suffering from the disease, according to a new study.

The treatment involved using an aggressive form of chemotherapy to destroy the immune system and then rebuild it using stem cells taken from the patient’s blood. It was carried out on 24 patients across three Canadian hospitals.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the central nervous system and is caused when the immune system attacks the body, known as autoimmunity.

The use of newly grown immune cells transplanted into patients would mean they would not have developed the defects that would cause them to attack.

The patients – between 18 and 50 years old – had disabilities ranging from moderate MS symptoms to requiring a walking aid.

In 23 of the patients, the treatment halted the development of new brain lesions, without the need for ongoing medication.

Eight of the patients also had a sustained improvement in their disabilities 7½ years after treatment, according to research published in the British medical journal The Lancet. However, one of the patients died from the effects of chemotherapy.