Monday, 19 March 2018

Stem Cells to the Rescue?

There are reports of a potential 'game changer' in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis or MS ( MS is a condition where numbers of lesions occur in the fatty, myelin sheaths around the nerves, resulting in damaged neural transmission with consequences including impaired abilities to move effectively or to think clearly.  It now appears that the condition may have an auto-immune component with the body attacking its own tissues. Certain groups of patients have, reportedly, shown very good responses to a procedure where:- a) stem cells (undifferentiated cells that have a wide capacity to convert into different specialist tissues) are harvested from their bone marrow and preserved; b) the patient's 'faulty' immune system is destroyed by chemotherapy and c) a 'new' immune system is created by re-seeding the patient with their own stem cells (so there are no rejection issues). The result, in some cases, appears to be a functioning immune system that no longer attacks the myelin sheath of nerves. Some MS patients are reported to be symptomless several years after the procedure. The procedure may not work in every patient and individuals would be open to disease from external and internal (so-called 'latent') factors whilst undergoing chemotherapy but it does offer hope of a cure (the duration of the benefit may still have to be confirmed). It is, of course, possible to induce cells from other sources (e.g. skin cells) to become customised stem cells and they could, perhaps, be used in this procedure.  

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