Stem cell treatment has once again hit the headlines this week, as BBC journalist, Caroline Wyatt, speaks out about receiving pioneering stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).
The former BBC defence correspondent has described the stem cell transplant she had in Mexico in January, as ‘near miraculous’ as she felt her symptoms begin to significantly ease after 25 years suffering with the condition.
The main improvement that Ms Wyatt describes is that her “brain fog began to lift” within weeks of having the treatment.
It is estimated that MS affects 100,000 people in the UK. The condition is caused by the protective layer surrounding nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord (myelin) being attacked by the immune system causing scarring. This damage disrupts nerve signals, and if not treated, it eventually leads to permanent neurodegeneration.
Among the symptoms are numbness, tingling of fingers, difficulty in walking, talking and thinking clearly, memory problems, bowl problems, vision problems, bladder problems and fatigue.
About 100,000 people in the UK are affected by MS, which can cause numbness, tingling in the fingers, and sufferers may struggle to walk or think clearly.
A ‘Miracle’ Treatment?
Wyatt was treated at a private hospital in Puebla, Mexico which is a centre of excellence for stem cell therapy. The centre uses stem cell therapy to treat a range of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and strokes.
Chemotherapy is used to suppress the immune system and then stem cells, harvested from the patient’s blood and frozen, are introduced into the bloodstream in a process that is known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT).
The stem cells then rebuild a healthy immune system reducing the risk of further damage to the brain and spinal cord. This treatment has been shown to be effective for a large number of MS sufferers who suffer with the relapsing form of MS, but has shown to be less effective with sufferers of progressive MS who do not experience relapses.
Although found to be effective for some patients, the treatment is still at an experimental stage and comes with significant risks. Intensive chemotherapy is required to attack the immune system which means that currently the treatment has a 1% mortality rate.
There are ongoing clinical trials looking at the most effective ways of using stem cells to treat MS and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Ajan Reginald has previously reported on stem cell treatment for MS and other neurodegenerative diseases.