An experiment to boost the immune systems of multiple sclerosis sufferers failed, but may provide a new way to treat the disease, a Canadian researcher has claimed.
Dr. Mark Freedman of the University of Ottawa told a stem cell seminar at the U.S. National Institutes of Health that patients who received bone marrow stem cell transplants — similar to those given to leukemia patients — have enjoyed a mysterious remission of the disease, according to the French news agency AFP.
But Freedman is not sure why.
MS is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is composed of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms may include numbness in the limbs. At its worst, MS can result in paralysis or loss of vision, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Freedman set up an experiment in which doctors destroyed the bone marrow and immune systems of MS patients, AFP writes.
Then blood-forming stem cells taken from the bone marrow, called hematopoietic cells, were transplanted back into the patients.
"We weren't looking for improvement,'' Freedman said. "The actual study was to reboot the immune system.''
Instead, the disease itself went into remission. According to the report, Freedman said that after seven years none of the 17 patients has had a relapse.