January 29, 2009
Immune System Reboot Works For Multiple Sclerosis

Wipe out the immune system and then put immune stem cells back in and this stops M.S. progression.

CHICAGO --- Researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine appear to have reversed the neurological dysfunction of early-stage multiple sclerosis patients by transplanting their own immune stem cells into their bodies and thereby "resetting" their immune systems.

"This is the first time we have turned the tide on this disease," said principal investigator Richard Burt, M.D. chief of immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases at the Feinberg School. The clinical trial was performed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where Burt holds the same title.

The patients in the small phase I/II trial continued to improve for up to 24 months after the transplantation procedure and then stabilized. They experienced improvements in areas in which they had been affected by multiple sclerosis including walking, ataxia, limb strength, vision and incontinence. The study will be published online January 30 and in the March issue of The Lancet Neurology.

Why does this work? Maybe because the stem cells do not differentiate into immune cells that have the exact set of antibodies the original immune system held before the therapy.

In the procedure, Burt and colleagues treated patients with chemotherapy to destroy their immune system. They then injected the patients with their own immune stem cells, obtained from the patients' blood before the chemotherapy, to create a new immune system. The procedure is called autologous non-myeloablative haematopoietic stem-cell transplantion.

"We focus on destroying only the immune component of the bone marrow and then regenerate the immune component, which makes the procedure much safer and less toxic than traditional chemotherapy for cancer," Burt said. After the transplantation, the patient's new lymphocytes or immune cells are self-tolerant and do not attack the immune system.

I'm not keen to get treated with chemotherapy to wipe out my immune system. However, the ability to wipe out an existing old immune system and replace it with a more youthful set of stem cells would work as an immune rejuvenation therapy. A rejuvenated immune system would probably reduce one's risk of cancer and very likely reduce risk of death from influenza and other infections.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 January 29 11:06 PM  Biotech Immunology

mdmetcalf said at January 30, 2009 7:25 AM:

Would an immune sytem "reboot" of this sort reset all of your immunizations as well? Would you have to get your shots all over again? Would you be subject to chicken pox again?

qwerty said at January 30, 2009 11:36 AM:

Please somebody tell me if this approach can work on autoimmune diseases like Type I diabetes.

My son has it, and there is evidence that if the body's immune system would just stop attacking the pancreas, the beta cells can grow back and re-establish normal insulin production.

Can we reboot my son's immune system so that it stops attacking the pancreas and he can live a normal life?

willem said at January 30, 2009 7:43 PM:

You're on the right track, querty. I'd start here: http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=cellmedicine&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Don't give up. Find somebody in the to work with you. Even if they do not state they will work with Type 1, talk to them about the specifics of the case and see if a mutual agreement can be made to explore a more comprehensive discussion of what treatment might be possible, even if you have to compensate them for the discussion time. That would at least place you in a more informed position, and perhaps, at the threshold of an approach to treatment that may be worth trying.

Garson O'Toole said at January 31, 2009 1:27 AM:

There are a large number of autoimmune diseases, e.g., Crohns Disease, Graves' disease, Diabetes mellitus type 1, and Myasthenia gravis that might be relevant to this reboot approach. Painful rheumatoid arthritis afflicts vast numbers of people especially the elderly and it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder.

Knocking out immune cells and rebooting the system is an extreme tactic but it is being explored now experimentally as discussed at the Arthritis Foundation website here. The overview mentions that the disease can reoccur after the reboot.

A sad article in Nature describes a patient who actually developed rheumatoid arthritis after an autologous stem cell transplant. See “Development of rheumatoid arthritis following autologous peripheral blood stem cell transplantation”. There should be hope but also caution about the risks.

Brian said at February 2, 2009 2:49 PM:

There has been a fair bit of anecdotal evidence in cancer patients that the chemo/marrow transplant approach does reset the immune system. You may want to talk to an oncologist and an immunologist or find someone with training in both if you can. there's an awful lot of drawbacks to chemo, it's horribly stressful to the body, and this work is likely to progress into something less traumatic.

With that said there's a number of lethal autoimmune diseases, and the choice between maybe die today, or certainly die a slow painful death tomorrow isn't so difficult.

Marcelo said at March 10, 2009 3:29 PM:

How can I submit myself to this treatment? I have recently been diagnosticated

Nancy Gordon said at April 30, 2009 11:24 AM:

I have 8 autoimmune diseases, possibly more being masked by prednisone. The latest is AI Hepatitis. The worst are an extremely rare type of glaucoma (1/million) that is rapidly taking my vision, Myasthenia Gravis and Addison's disease. I live on prednisone and weekly IVIG treatments. I am more than willing to take the risk to reboot my immune system. Can someone direct me? I need names....contacts. I called Johns Hopkins and left messages but haven't heard back. Is this strickly in the trial stage or are some doctors actually performing the "reboot" now? Thanks, Nancy

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