'Radical' stem cell trial offers hope for MS sufferers

Oct. 27, 2013, 3 a.m.

Jason McIntyre's autoimmune system is dead. The rest of him isn't feeling much better. Eleven days ago he underwent an aggressive chemotherapy, not for the sake of killing cancer - but to knock out every skerrick of protection his body has against infection.

Sitting in a freezer were 35 million stem cells that were shaken from Mr McIntyre's bone marrow by a combination of drugs. These were filtered from his blood about three weeks ago. That process, he says, left him with aching bones. It was his birthday.

If he survives long enough - that is, if a piece of dust doesn't get in his eye and spark a fatal infection - the stem cells will this week be returned to his body, as building blocks for a brand new autoimmune system.

Mr McIntyre, 37, is only the sixth patient with multiple sclerosis to undergo this experimental therapy - known as an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant - in a small trial being conducted by St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.

Thousands of stem cell transplants are performed worldwide to treat certain blood cancers in patients who have become resistant to regular therapies - but the numbers of MS sufferers treated with a stem cell transplant are in the hundreds.

It's a strategy reserved for people like Jason McIntyre whose form of MS is very aggressive and resistant to drug therapy.

About three years ago, the Melbourne truck driver arrived home with blurry vision. He told his wife, Kym, that he couldn't read the number plates on cars. Soon after, following a session at the gym, he was ''boiling hot and his vision went blurry again''.

Kym McIntyre says it all happened pretty quickly. He started dragging his left foot. He couldn't unscrew bottle tops and lost his co-ordination.

An eye doctor recognised the problem as multiple sclerosis, but Mr McIntyre was told by a specialist that he'd have to wait for another attack - another lesion on the brain to develop - for the diagnosis to be confirmed.

See the original post:
'Radical' stem cell trial offers hope for MS sufferers

Related Post