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.
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.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin sheath around the nerves in the brain and spine. This interrupts messages sent by the brain to the rest of the body and impacts arm and leg function, bladder and bowel functions and cognition.
The aim of aHSCT is to “reset” the immune system, so that it will stop attacking the person’s own myelin sheath. aHSCT has traditionally been used for the treatment of life-threatening cancers. Trials for MS have been taking place for over 15 years. Some of the scepticism surrounding aHSCT is due to the early transplants raising a number of concerns about the safety and efficacy with several long term of life threatening complications. However more recent trials have defined clear criteria for PwMS who are most likely to benefit. In addition there has been greater emphasis on safety and efficacy.
AHSCT is an aggressive treatment which has been used for over 20 years for the treatment of some cancers. It involves a number of steps, including:
This diagram, showing the aHSCT process, comes from MS Australia.
Stem cell treatment has generated a lot of excitement because the potential therapeutic benefits. There is real hope that stem cell transplants may assist in remyelination and may help protect the nervous system from immune attacks. aHSCT is not currently available in New Zealand for the treatment of MS. MSNZ has been actively involved in advocating it’s introduction. We are aware that both MS neurologists and haematologists also support the introduction of this treatment.
MSNZ strongly recommends aHSCT is made available to PwMS who meet the following criteria:
We proudly supported this petition for MS Patients to get aHSCT here in New Zealand, instead of having to fundraise and travel abroad for treatment. The petition closed on 30th June 2022, and we await the outcome. See the petition here.
Watch the recording of our aHSCT in New Zealand Webinar we hosted in May 2023. You will hear from the first NZ recipient of aHSCT, learn more about the proposed criteria and protocol, the recommended post-transplant rehabilitation protocol and exciting research taking place by New Zealand researchers.
Advances in aHSCT webinar with Dr Wallace Brownlee – New Zealand Multiple Sclerosis Research Trust
My quest to stop my MS in its track – a personal account from an ex-BBC correspondent Caroline Wyatt
Stem Cell Transplantation for MS – 2017 with Dr. Riccardo Saccardi
‘Stem Cell Treatments – a Quick Guide for Medical Practitioners’ – Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
‘Stem Cell Treatments – Frequently Asked Questions’ – Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Read Bronwyn’s aHSCT story – Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand – 2022
Read Celia’s aHSCT story – Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand – 2022
Read Anne’s aHSCT story – Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand – 2022
Stem Cell therapy for MS – MS International Federation
What happens to the immune system after aHSCT? – MS Australia
Read Luis’ aHSCT story – Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand – 2022
Stem Cell Therapy for MS – MS International Federation – 2022
aHSCT in New Zealand Webinar – MSNZ – 2023