A recent study from the University of Genova in Italy drew conclusions that point to good news for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). According to the data, collected over a four-year period, MS patients undergoing autologous stem cell transplantation experienced significantly fewer new brain lesions than those treated with mitoxantrone, a common medicine used in the treatment of MS and cancer.
Patients were randomly assigned either to a treatment group, whose members received stem cell therapy, or to a control group of patients given only mitoxantrone. According to the journal Neurology, previous experiments involving stem cell therapy and MS have not been randomized and controlled, so this study is the first to provide an unbiased analysis of the effects of the treatment.
The findings were significant and promising. Patients who received autologous stem cell therapy experienced 80 percent fewer new T2 lesions than those who did not receive the treatment. This means that stem cell therapy may be able to "reboot" patients' immune systems to prevent them from attacking the nervous system, which causes the mobility and balance impairments that are characteristic of MS.
The researchers, including lead author Dr. Giovanni Mancardi of the University of Genova, warned that the small sample size of their study means that it should not be taken as gospel quite yet. Another phase of the study is underway to determine whether stem cell therapy can also reduce the level of disability in MS patients, which was not measured in this study.
Mancardi said in a statement, "It's very exciting to see that this treatment may be so superior to a current treatment for people with severe MS that are not responding well to standard treatments."
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