A new study shows stem cells can reverse MS in some patients. But researchers have questions.


Some patients in a small trial who got stem cell transplants after chemo saw their quality of life and disability improve.

By the time Amanda Loy turned 28, her multiple sclerosis had progressed to the point that she could no longer work full time. Her hands and legs felt numb all the time, her bladder always felt full, and she had to rely on a cane to walk for more than 10 minutes. After she gave birth to a son a year later, in 2008, the symptoms worsened. It was around then that she decided to travel from her home in Anchorage, Alaska, to Chicago to inquire about a new treatment she’d heard about at a Seattle hospital.

Nearly a dozen years on, Loy is now back to working full time as a teacher in the radiology program at the University of Alaska. She runs half-marathons and plays soccer with her son, who is 10. She no longer takes MS medications. Her only lingering symptom is some mild nerve pain from time to time.

“It sounds so dramatic, but [the treatment] gave me my life back,” she said.

The treatment is an experimental chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Loy got it as part of the first randomized trial comparing the outcomes of patients with what’s called “relapsing remitting” MS who received the treatment to patients who took standard MS medications.

The results of the trial appeared on January 15 in the journal JAMA: Among the 55 patients in the control group who took medication, 34 saw their disease worsen. But for the 55 (including Loy) who received the chemo and stem cell transplant, only three got worse. The rest saw their quality of life and disability improve.


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