Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects more than 2.3 million people across the globe, nearly half of whom are located in the U.S. While there are several types, the most common is relapsing-remitting MS, in which patients experience no symptoms for some time and then go through flare-ups. Relapses and symptoms, which include motor and speech challenges, fatigue, weakness, and chronic pain, may worsen over time.
In MS, the individual’s own immune cells mistakenly attack the central nervous system. While there are over a dozen drugs available to help manage symptoms, for most people with severe relapsing MS, these medications may not be enough or effective in controlling the symptoms.
A clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) aims to compare the effectiveness of an experimental stem cell therapy against the leading biologic therapies for relapsing Multiple Sclerosis. The stem cell therapy will encompass the use of chemical agents to remove the immune cells which erroneously attack the central nervous system. Some of the patient’s own stem cells, which will have been extracted prior to treatment, will be re-administered to the individual. The stem cells have the potential to repair and regenerate to help the immune system so that it can fully reset and reduce symptoms caused by the condition. The treatment is referred to as autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT).
Because there are risks associated with suppressing the immune system to such a degree, research needs to confirm that the benefits of the treatment outweigh the risk. Prior studies have already indicated that stem cell therapy can yield significant benefits for these patients, but it has never been compared against available drugs.
With these risks and benefits in mind, researchers are setting out to explore whether AHSCT will be a viable alternative to third-line biologic drugs. The study, called BEAT-MS, will be led by Jeffrey A. Cohen, M.D., professor of neurology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. More than 150 adults throughout the U.S. and U.K. will be involved across 19 locations and will receive either stem cell therapy or a leading biologic drug. After the treatment, their condition will be tracked for six years. Specifically, researchers will look to see how much time passes between treatment and an MS relapse, and how patients’ immune system functionality compares between the two groups.
This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for multiple sclerosis, also known as stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.