Doctors on Sunday hailed what they say is a major breakthrough in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, halting progress of the disease and relieving symptoms in some patients.
An international trial also found that the stem cell transplant treatment could reduce disability for people with MS, according to the BBC.
The disease, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord and affects people’s immune systems, leads to fatigue, muscle and mobility problems, as well as a range of other disabilities.
But now a new stem cell treatment is being called a “game changer” as it involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.
Louise Willetts, 36, a patient from Rotherham, is free of symptoms for the first time since being diagnosed with the disease in 2010. She told the BBC: “It feels like a miracle.”
In the trial, more than 100 patients from hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Stockholm and Sao Paolo, were treated with either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or conventional drugs. They all had a type of relapsing remitting MS – in which attacks are punctuated by periods of remission.
After a year, just one relapse occurred among the 52 patients who had stem cell treatment and, after an average follow up of three years, the transplant treatment had failed for just three of them – about six per cent.