Along with aiding research into tissue replacement, experts have also developed ways in which stem cells can be used in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. This research is not commonly available as a treatment in the UK as trials and experiments continue, though it has been offered in other countries to a handful of patients. In the past, this treatment was offered in Holland, though clinics have been advised not to continue their practices of this treatment as there were many ethical questions that arose from the costs to the source of the stem cells.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a disorder of the nervous system that can cause loss of balance and can cause loss of sensation in the limbs. Tiredness, visual disturbances and problems with co-ordination are all common symptoms of MS though the degree of severity can be very variable between patients. MS occurs as the protective sheath (the myelin sheath) around the nerve fibres becomes damaged, depleted or scarred. The actual cause of the illness is not fully understood; genetics and external factors are thought to play a role.
How Can Stem Cells Treat MS?
As stem cells developed from either adult or embryonic cells can grow to be just about any type of cell in the body, they can therefore be developed into nerve cells and those that make up myelin. The process may be carried out by injecting the affected person with stem cells obtained from their own bone marrow, with the aim of targeting the affected areas and replacing or replenishing the depleted and damaged cells. Scientists are finding out extremely valuable information during the research process and are hoping to gain a greater understanding of the disease processes involved with MS along with discovering ethical and suitable treatment options.
As research is still in its infancy in the UK and experts are being extremely careful with the research, this treatment is unlikely to be routinely offered to all sufferers of MS until long term results and effects have been concluded from the trial group. However, there may be the possibility of sufferers volunteering themselves for trials and research with many of the organisations developing this treatment and if this is an option to be considered, the affected person should contact research institutes directly following discussion with your specialist or GP. Research must continue to perfect the treatment and also discover any long term affects such as unwanted cell growth, long term problems and interactions, and whether the treatment is cost effective.
Research in to both stem cell treatments and MS continue every day with new breakthroughs and leads showing promise from the start, but until all trials have been thoroughly tested and concluded, treatments cannot become available for routine use. Treating MS with stem cells, has so far shown quite hopeful results, so may be in a few years, sufferers can look forward to finally finding relief from this debilitating illness. Doctors and the public alike will have to follow developments closely to see what the next instalment of the research includes.