Bone marrow treatments restore nerves, expert says

Tue May 6, 2008 2:39pm EDT
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

BETHESDA, Maryland (Reuters) - An experiment that went wrong may provide a new way to treat multiple sclerosis, a Canadian researcher said on Tuesday.

Patients who got bone marrow stem-cell transplants -- similar to those given to leukemia patients -- have enjoyed a mysterious remission of their disease.

And Dr. Mark Freedman of the University of Ottawa is not sure why.

"Not a single patient, and it's almost seven years, has ever had a relapse," Freedman said.

Multiple sclerosis or MS affects an estimated 1 million people globally. There is no cure.

It can cause mild illness in some people while causing permanent disability in others. Symptoms may include numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, partial or complete loss of vision, and an unsteady gait.

Freedman, who specializes in treating MS, wanted to study how the disease unfolds. He set up an experiment in which doctors destroyed the bone marrow and thus the immune systems of MS patients.

Then stem cells known as hematopoeitic stem cells, blood-forming cells taken from the bone marrow, were transplanted back into the patients.   Continued...