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Tuesday

 

Miracle 'cure' for MS as paralysed patients able to walk again: VIDEO

































Devastating: How MS looks in the body

Patients who were completely paralysed by multiple sclerosis have told of their joy at being able to walk, cycle and swim again after undergoing “miraculous” stem cell transplants.

Around two dozen Brits aged from their 20s to their 50s have had bone marrow transplants using their own stem cells in a world first clinical trial at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital

The procedure - already used to treat cancer patients on the NHS - has even helped one male MS patient who had lost his sight to see again.

Experts say the dramatic breakthrough has the potential to treat millions of patients in future.

Prof John Snowden, consultant haematologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told the Daily Mirror: “It’s clear we have made a big impact on patients’ lives, which is gratifying.

“Considering some of the patients were bed-bound when we first saw them, the results are amazing.

“The potential is certainly there for this to be used to treat patients with other conditions, for instance those with Crohn’s disease , lupus and even arthritis.”

The £30,000 treatment is the first to reverse the symptoms of MS, which is incurable, and affects about 100,000 people in Britain.

Patients treated more than three years ago show no signs of relapse.

And after the one-off cost of the treatment, the good news is that patients no longer need other drugs and hospital stays, which can cost up to £70,000 a year.

Prof Basil Sharrack, also of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: “Since we started treating patients three years ago, some of the results we have seen have been miraculous.

“This is not a word I would use lightly, but we have seen profound neurological improvements.

“To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement.”

It is unclear what causes MS.

But some doctors believe that it is the immune system itself that attacks the brain and spinal cord, leading to inflammation pain, disability and, in severe cases, death.

The new treatment - known as an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) - aims to destroy the faulty immune system using high-dose chemotherapy.

It is then completely rebuilt with stem cells harvested from the patient’s own blood.

The technique is already used to treat hundreds of Brits with cancer each year.

The world first trial of the treatment in MS patients is also being run in the US, Sweden and Brazil, as well as in Sheffield.

Patients who have been wheelchairbound for 10 years have regained the use of their legs in the ground-breaking therapy.

One male MS patient who was blind can now see again.

And a woman in her twenties who needed a ventilator to breathe is now leading a normal life.

Prof Snowden explained: “The immune system is being reset or rebooted back to a time point before it caused MS.”

One patient who has had the breakthrough treatment, Steven Storey, 42, was diagnosed with MS in 2013.

He said: “I went from running marathons to needing 24-hour acute care. At one point I couldn’t even hold a spoon and feed myself.”

He eventually lost almost all of the sensation in his body.

Yet within a few days of the transplant he was able to move his toes, and after four months he could stand unaided.

He still needs a wheelchair but is astounded at his progress, adding: “It’s been incredible.

"I was in a dire place, but now I can swim and cycle and I am determined to walk.”

Another patient, Holly Drewry, was 21 when she was diagnosed with MS. Her condition deteriorated after she gave birth to her daughter Isla.

She said: “Within a couple of months I got worse and worse. I couldn’t dress or wash myself; I didn’t even have the strength to carry my daughter.”

Ms Drewry needed a wheelchair before her transplant, but after the treatment she walked out of hospital.

She said: “It worked wonders. I remember being in the hospital...after three weeks, I called my mum and said: ‘I can stand’.

"We were all crying. I can run a little bit, I can dance. I love dancing, it is silly but I do.

“It’s been a miracle. I got my life and my independence back and the future is bright again in terms of being a mum and doing everything with Isla.”

Two years on she has suffered no relapses and there is no evidence of active disease on her scans.

Doctors describe her MS as dormant, but there is hope that the transplant might be a permanent fix.

Dr Emma Gray, head of clinical trials at UK’s MS Society, said: “Ongoing research suggests stem cell treatments such as HSCT could offer hope, and it’s clear that, in the cases highlighted by Panorama, they’ve had a life-changing impact.

“However, trials have found that, while HSCT may be able to stabilise or improve disability in some people with MS, it may not be effective for all types of the condition.

“We want people to be aware that HSCT is an aggressive treatment that comes with significant risks.

"It needs to be carried out at an accredited centre or as part of a clinical trial.

“The MS Society has recently funded a study looking into the impact of HSCT on the immune system and we’d like to see larger trials in this area.

"They would help us learn more about the safety and long term effectiveness of the treatment and who could benefit from it.”

Specialists also warned that patients would need to be fit to benefit from the new treatment.

Prof Sharrack explained: “This is not a treatment that is suitable for everybody because it is very aggressive and patients need to be quite fit to withstand the effects of the chemotherapy.”

The Royal Hallamshire Hospital - together with hospitals in the US, Sweden and Brazil - is part of an international trial, MIST, which is assessing the long-term benefits of the stem cell transplant.

All those on the trial have relapsing remitting MS, where patients experience attacks - or relapses - followed by periods of remission.

The treatment involves intensive chemotherapy, so patients are warned that there are side-effects such as nausea and hair loss.

Paul Kirkham, another MS patient, said he was glad to have had the transplant but added: “It does knock you. I’d rather have done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.”

Roughly three times as many women have MS as men - and the condition is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40.

Symptoms can include extreme tiredness, numbness and tingling, vision problems and difficulties with walking, but the condition is different for everyone.

Amy Bowen, Director of Service Development at the MS Trust, cautioned: “Stem cell therapy is a very powerful treatment with significant risks as well as potential benefits.

"It’s a long way from being a routine treatment for MS.

“We still need more clinical trials to understand who is most likely to benefit from treatment, to develop safer treatment procedures and understand what the long-term effects of treatment might be.

“We also need to understand the most effective ways to provide stem cell therapy safely to the people most likely to benefit.

"At the moment stem cell therapy is only available on the NHS in very limited circumstances and the criteria for eligibility varies.”

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by MIRROR
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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