On Friday, June 5, a few days after World MS Day on May 30, there was a day of online conferences and workshops to learn more about multiple sclerosis. It was an opportunity to shed light on autologous bone marrow transplantation, a little known treatment that could cure multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative autoimmune disease that causes stiffness, pain, and fatigue. It is the main cause of disability, exclusion from the labor market, and social exclusion among young people, as it occurs mainly among people between 25 and 35 years old. According to the National MS Society, approximately 1 million people in the United States suffer from MS.
Rebuilding the immune system
Currently, there is no treatment to cure MS, but there is hope: Autologous bone marrow transplantation or autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. This treatment allows patients to go from the more common forms of multiple sclerosis into remission. If carried out early enough, it enables at least partial recovery from the disability.
The aim of this treatment is to rebuild a new immune system in patients. This includes intensive chemotherapy followed by reinjection of the patient’s hematopoietic stem cells. Several studies conducted between 2015 and 2019 on this technique have shown that “83.3 of patients with the relapsing-remitting form had no attack in the four years following auto-transplantation and three years after transplantation 78% of patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and 66% of patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis experienced no worsening of their disability,” Mediapart continues.
Metformin, another therapeutic hope
One of the main obstacles to this treatment remains the difficulty of access. Many patients testify that their neurologist often finds this method too experimental and too risky. Another factor that discourages the use of autologous bone marrow transplantation is the risk-benefit ratio, which is considered unbalanced. Transplant-related mortality is between 5 and 10%, which justifies doctors’ preference for a treatment that is considered safer.
Another treatment has shown encouraging results in multiple sclerosis. This is a drug for diabetes, metformin, which rejuvenates stem cells to convert them into myelin-producing cells and thus help combat multiple sclerosis. These results have been published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, and it is expected that the tests, which are currently only carried out on mice, will also be carried out on humans within a year. “I am very optimistic,” study author Professor Robin Franklin told The Guardian newspaper.