http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jh ... tem128.xml
Stem cell trials raise multiple sclerosis hopes
By Martin Beckford
Last Updated: 3:52am BST 28/09/2007
Tens of thousands of patients with MS could benefit from the revolutionary treatment if the tests taking place at the Frenchay hospital, near Bristol, are successful.
Patients are injected with stem cells taken from their own bone marrow, not from umbilical cords
The procedure involves patients being injected with stem cells taken from their own bone marrow, in the hope that they will travel to damaged parts of the brain and repair them.
It could take months or years for the treatment to begin to undo the damage caused by the incurable disease, which affects the central nervous system, and it is not known for sure that it will work.
But researchers are confident the stem cell therapy will be a major breakthrough for the 85,000 people in Britain who suffer from MS, many of whom are left wheelchair-bound and paralysed.
Neil Scolding, professor of clinical neurosciences for North Bristol NHS Trust, who is leading the trial, said: "We believe that bone marrow cells have the capability to repair precisely the type of damage that we see in the brain and spinal cord in MS.
"So by giving patients very large numbers of their own bone marrow cells we hope that this will help stabilise the disease and bring about some repair."
The trial, which started six months ago, is one of the first to use patients' own bone marrow stem cells to treat their MS.
It involves six people with MS, aged between 30 and 60, having a pint of bone marrow extracted from their pelvises.
The processed material, containing stem cells, is then injected on the same day into the patients' arms.
Over a period of months, the patients will be monitored closely and given regular brain scans to see what impact the treatment has had on them.
Previous studies have shown that stem cells are able to develop into other cell types, travel through the bloodstream to the brain and are actively taken up by damaged areas.
The Frenchay trial avoids the ethical controversy that surrounds many stem cell studies because it does not use human embryos.
Although the first patients in the trial underwent the stem cell therapy six months ago, Prof Scolding said it was still too early to tell whether there had been any benefits. It is not yet known whether the MS sufferers will need more than one injection of stem cells.
Liz Allison, an MS patient taking part in the trial, told the BBC: "I'm hoping there will be some improvement."
Christine Jones, the chief executive of the MS Trust, said: "We're delighted that this new trial is going ahead and there will be an awful lot of people with MS watching it very closely."
MS sufferers have previously been offered stem cell therapy in Holland. But those tests have proved controversial because they are expensive and because the cells are taken from babies' umbilical cords. This raises the risk that they will be rejected by the patient receiving them.