BBC reports adult stem cell breakthrough for MS patients

Tue, 19 Jan 2016

Pioneering medical treatment using ethical stem cells which has dramatically improved the lives of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has been covered by the BBC’s Panorama.

The programme, which aired last night, includes a mother who says her “future is bright again” after the treatment.

A father who took part in the same trial, at one point needed 24-hour care, but can now swim and cycle.

Transplant

Unlike embryonic stem cells, which involve the destruction of embryos, the adult stem cells used were harvested from the patients’ own blood.

All the patients involved have relapsing remitting MS and underwent a treatment usually given to cancer sufferers.

Around 20 people had bone marrow transplants in Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital using their own stem cells, in the technique known as an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant.

Bright

Speaking to the BBC, Holly Drewry explained that she was 21 when she was diagnosed with MS. After giving birth, she became increasingly unwell and could not even dress or wash herself.

But after the stem cell treatment, she could move her toes and was later able to walk out of hospital with assistance.

She said: “I got my life and my independence back and the future is bright again in terms of being a mum”.

Determined

Steven Storey was fit and healthy until he was diagnosed with MS in 2013. His health deteriorated until he could not even hold a spoon to feed himself.

After the transplant he could move his toes and now says, “I can swim and cycle and I am determined to walk”.

Prof Basil Sharrack, from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: “To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement.”

Big impact

Prof John Snowden, a consultant haematologist at the same hospital, commented: “It’s clear we have made a big impact on patients’ lives, which is gratifying.”

Dr Emma Gray from the MS Society welcomed the reports, but was cautious, explaining that it may not be effective for every type of the condition.