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.
The aim of this treatment is to “reset” the immune system, so that it will stop attacking the person’s own central nervous system. AHSCT is a high-risk procedure, it has traditionally been used for the treatment of life-threatening cancers. Trials for MS have been taking place for over 10 years. Much of the scepticism surrounding HSCT 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 are defining the criteria for whom success is most likely to be achieved and greater emphasis on safety and efficacy.
AHSCT is an aggressive and high-risk treatment which involves a number of steps, including:
Stem cells have 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. HSCT is not currently available in New Zealand for the treatment of MS. MSNZ recommends that:
‘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)