Data from the National Stem Cell Foundation shows that almost 4% of the global population lives with an autoimmune disorder. In America, this figure as per the Autoimmune Association, adds up to about 50 million individuals. Of this number, roughly 75% are women.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions that affect an individual’s immune system, causing it to attack the body. There are more than 80 known autoimmune illnesses, most of which have no cure. While the exact cause of these illnesses isn’t known, researchers believe that some microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria or even drugs, may trigger changes that confuse a person’s immune system. This is more likely to happen in individuals with genes that make them more susceptible to autoimmune illnesses.
These diseases greatly impact how patients live and often require them to make huge changes in their lives, affecting not only their quality of lives but also the lives of their families and/or loved ones. For instance, Celine Dion, one of the greatest singers of all time, was recently diagnosed with stiff-person syndrome. This rare progressive neurological disorder causes uncontrollable spasms as well as stiff muscles in the arms, torso and legs.
Another common and incurable autoimmune illness is multiple sclerosis, a condition that can affect the spinal cord and the brain, causing symptoms such as problems with arm or leg movement, vision, balance or sensation. Patients with such illnesses work to manage the symptoms to help improve their quality of life.
Now, a new trial has found that stem cell transplants may help keep these illnesses in remission. Researchers at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute recently carried out autologous stem cell transplants on patients with certain autoimmune disorders. Dr. Richard Nash, who was part of the study, explained that the transplants helped suppress the immune system’s response.
For the study, patients involved first received high chemotherapy doses to eliminate the immune system. Once this was done, stem cells were extracted from the donor, processed, then introduced to the patient’s body. Nash noted that various studies had demonstrated that transplants for patients with multiple sclerosis could be effective. The studies had shown that 70% of patients with this autoimmune disease could stay in remission for five years. A separate study also showed that up to 70% of systemic sclerosis patients remained in remission for 10 years following a transplant.
It should be noted that the transplantation of stem cells is still considered an experimental therapy for autoimmune illnesses. While early results have shown promise, more clinical trials need to be conducted.
Other teams, including the research team at Aditxt Inc. (NASDAQ: ADTX), are also tackling the problem of autoimmune conditions by looking for ways to tweak people’s immune systems so that these diseases are toned down or even reversed among patients.
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