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What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are cells which are able to differentiate into other types of cells and are capable of ‘self-renewal’ or multiplying to produce greater numbers. Stem cell treatments are any therapies which target or use stem cells – usually to replace or repair damage.

What is Stem-Cell Treatment?

Stem cell therapy is any treatment that uses or targets stem cells. This is usually to help replace or repair damaged cells or tissues, but can also be used to prevent damage from happening in the first place. Stem cell therapy might either involve transplanting stem cells or giving drugs that target stem cells already in the body.


Stem cell treatments currently in use for MS use autologous haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) – adult stem cells from the blood or bone marrow which are taken from the patient’s own blood or bone marrow. The aim of HSC transplant is to re-boot the immune system.


This is an aggressive and high-risk treatment which involves a number of steps, including:


   - Collecting or ‘harvesting’ the HSCs from the bone marrow or blood of the patient

   - Purifying and concentrating the HSCs in the laboratory

   - Freezing or ‘cryopreserving’ the cells in the laboratory until they are required

   - Administering chemotherapy to destroy the patient’s immune system (conditioning)

   - Returning the thawed HSCs to the patient by infusion

 

(Information from MS Australia - http://www.msaustralia.org.au/stem-cells)

More information is available in the 2010 guidelines Stem Cell Therapies in MS  written by some of the most respected International MS researchers and MS Societies around the globe summarises the guidelines for people living with MS. The Guidelines spell out hope for the future of MS stem cell research and debunk myths about stem cell clinics which claim to cure MS.

The guidelines are the result of a meeting held in London in May 2009 organised by the MS Societies in the UK and USA, and supported by MSIF and the MS Societies of Italy, France and Australia. 

 

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are cells which are able to differentiate into other types of cells and are capable of ‘self-renewal’ or multiplying to produce greater numbers. Stem cell treatments are any therapies which target or use stem cells – usually to replace or repair damage.

What is stem-cell treatment?

Stem cell therapy is any treatment that uses or targets stem cells. This is usually to help replace or repair damaged cells or tissues, but can also be used to prevent damage from happening in the first place. Stem cell therapy might either involve transplanting stem cells or giving drugs that target stem cells already in the body.

Stem cell treatments currently in use for MS use autologous haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) – adult stem cells from the blood or bone marrow which are taken from the patient’s own blood or bone marrow. The aim of HSC transplant is to re-boot the immune system.

This is an aggressive and high-risk treatment which involves a number of steps, including:

  1. Collecting or ‘harvesting’ the HSCs from the bone marrow or blood of the patient
  2. Purifying and concentrating the HSCs in the laboratory
  3. Freezing or ‘cryopreserving’ the cells in the laboratory until they are required
  4. Administering chemotherapy to destroy the patient’s immune system (conditioning)
  5. Returning the thawed HSCs to the patient by infusion
- See more at: http://www.msaustralia.org.au/stem-cells#sthash.SvXX4DLP.dpuf

MSNZ Advice regarding Stem Cell Therapies

Stem cells have generated a lot of excitement because the potential therapeutic benefits are so vast. There is real hope that stem cell transplants may assist in remyelination and may help protect the nervous system from immune attacks.

Unfortunately this interest has also generated unsubstantiated reports of stem cell transplantation “curing or improving” a wide variety of neurological conditions. Unfortunately the details around many of these claims have rarely been subjected to scientific scrutiny and most, when subjected to such scrutiny may have been found wanting.

At this stage the ability for stem cell transplantation to reduce damaged cells, particularly axons, within the nervous system is not scientifically confirmed. The majority of therapies are still at a very early stage of development, and in most cases a number of scientific and technical hurdles need to be resolved before clinical application can progress.

Recommendations 

Based on a review of the most current information available on Stem Cells the Stem Cell in Multiple Sclerosis Consensus Group (STEMS) has published a paper with the following recommendations;
1)    Exploratory trials using MSC’s and NPC’s to treat patients with early secondary progressive MS that is refractory to conventional treatments should now be considered.
2)    Relapsing/remitting disease should continue to be treated with conventional therapies.
3)    Stem cell treatments should only be done in established centres that strictly adhere to the International Society for Stem Cell research guidelines and should be done in the context of a clinical trial where benefits can be measured and patients closely monitored for adverse outcomes.

Stem Cell Treatment Advice

 

(Australian) NHMRC publishes new resources to assist people contemplating stem cell treatments

(Article from MS Research Australia) 7th January, 2014


Stem cells are considered by many to hold the ultimate promise for repair and cure for a variety of chronic and degenerative conditions. While great progress is being made in understanding how stem cells work and how they may be used to treat a variety of illnesses, there is still a considerable way to go before they become part of standard treatment. Despite this, many people travel overseas or visit private Australian clinics to undergo untested and unproven stem cell treatments.


In a statement released in December, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) warned that unproven stem cell treatments available in Australia and overseas could pose risks to the health and well-being of patients.


The NHMRC have released two documents, ‘Stem Cell Treatments – a Quick Guide for Medical Practitioners’ and the patient-targeted document ‘Stem Cell Treatments – Frequently Asked Questions’. These documents inform medical practitioners and their patients about the stem cell treatments that are available, and the risks associated with unproven treatments.


Stem cell treatments for MS are currently limited to autologous haematopoetic stem cell transplants (stem cell transplants from the patient’s own bone marrow). This treatment is regarded as a highly aggressive and experimental form of therapy and is generally only considered in specific cases at a limited number of hospitals. Other forms of stem cells are being intensively researched in the laboratory for their properties to calm inflammation and encourage repair and regeneration in the central nervous system in MS, however, they are yet to reach the clinical trial stage. Despite this, some private Australian and overseas clinics offer autologous stem cell treatments to people with MS with no evidence for their safety or efficacy.


The NHMRC encourages patients considering stem cell treatments to seek additional information from a trustworthy source other than the clinic or practitioner offering the treatment. Patients should also speak to their general or specialist medical practitioners about their decision. The patient resource document also provides a list of questions to ask treatment providers when considering a specific treatment.


'Our resources provide information to support practitioners and patients in their discussions about stem cell treatments, and ultimately to assist people to make informed choices about their medical care,' said NHMRC Chief Executive Officer, Professor Warwick Anderson.


The documents can be downloaded from the NHMRC website.