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Treatment Promises to Freeze Multiple Sclerosis Comes with a Big Risk

Update Date: Feb 24, 2017 07:20 AM EST

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects over 2.3 million people around the world, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The neurological disorder typically manifests in young adulthood and impairs vision, physical balance and walking.

While the condition is not fatal, it is incurable and it has prompted researchers to go on a massive quest for an effective and more aggressive treatment. The approach was both aggressive and daring because doctors from the study proposes deleting a person's entire immune system and rebooting it using a stem cell transplant.

The procedure may sound simple it is highly risky and uncomfortable. BBC reported that out of the 281 who decided to get the treatment, nearly half benefitted but 8 deaths have been reported.

This new treatment known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation or AHSCT uses the concept of resetting the immune system to prevent to onset of MS which is an autoimmune disease.

The therapy requires using powerful toxic drugs, some drugs used in chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. These drugs will be used to wipe clean a person's existing cells in his bone marrow. Stem cells will then be infused to boost and promote the "resetting" of the immune system.

The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) gathered and validated data from 25 centers in 13 countries conducting trials. JAMA Neurology reported a 78 percent progress among patients (218 out of 281).

However, these findings also reveal that the treatment is not for everyone. Data suggests that younger patients who are not responsive to other MS treatments and are those who are having a relapse conditions would benefit more.

Dr. Paolo Muraro, lead investigator of the study cautioned that risks must be considered against the benefits. While the study revealed success in freezing a patient's disease there have also been fatalities. The doctor also advised that advanced clinical trials are coming, they have yet to establish how long the treatment's benefits would last.

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