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United Spinal Association Reports Positive Results of Stem Cell Transplantation to Treat Multiple Sclerosis: Study May be Key to Unlocking a Cure

NEW YORK, May 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An article published in the Summer 2009 edition of Multiple Sclerosis Quarterly Report, a joint publication of United Spinal Association ( and the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS), highlights the positive initial results of patients who have improving neurologic function after receiving a stem cell transplant, despite no longer taking any MS medications.

The results are reported in a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored study called HALT-MS to confirm whether high-dose immunosuppression followed by autologous stem cell transplantation will prevent MS attacks in patients who are not responding to available treatment options and ultimately protect against the degeneration of nerve fibers.

The article, written by George H. Kraft, MD, MS, director of the Western MS Center in Seattle, Washington, and colleagues, reveals the promising outcomes of the first three patients entered into the HALT-MS Study, including a 27-year-old woman with an 8-year history of relapsing MS who was treated with five different MS drugs, but continued to have relapses.

The study involves wiping out the patient's immune system through high-dose chemotherapy or other means, such as radiation, to destroy most blood cells and bone marrow. Blood "stem cells" with the capacity to generate new blood and immune cells are then transplanted into the patient. These stem cells can either be the patient's own or those from a matched donor. Once the cells are transplanted, they repopulate the bone marrow and restart building all the cell types found in the blood, a process called "engraftment". After transplantation, the patient would effectively have a "new" immune system that would not attack nerves in the brain and spinal cord as seen in MS.

Currently, there are approximately 400 patients with MS worldwide who have been treated with stem cell transplantation. Research demonstrates that patients with highly active forms of relapsing-remitting MS have responded best to treatment.

The Halt-MS Study is taking place at four centers in the US: The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington Western MS Center; Ohio State University; Baylor College of Medicine; and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and is currently open to participants with severe relapsing forms of MS. For more information, visit HALT-MS Website or contact Bernie McLaughlin, RN at (206) 667-4916.

About United Spinal Association

United Spinal is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization formed in 1946 by paralyzed veterans and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Americans with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, ALS and post polio. It has played a significant role in writing the Americans with Disabilities Act, made important contributions to the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Membership is free and is open to all individuals with spinal cord disorders.

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Paul Tobin

SOURCE United Spinal Association
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