A small group of patients with multiple sclerosis were enrolled in a new pilot clinical trial to test bone marrow stem cell therapy at Frenchay Hospital. The aim of the trial is to find out what effects, good or bad, it has on patients with MS, and their disability. It is being conducted by the University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust.
Bone marrow is of great interest to those working to develop new treatments for many diseases, including those affecting the nervous system since the marrow is known to contain stem cells capable of replacing cells in many types of tissues and organs.
Until now, patients have not been treated in this manner, but laboratory studies in Bristol and elsewhere have worked with similar cells to determine potential benefits to aid repair in multiple sclerosis.
The trial is being led by the University of Bristol and Neil Scolding who is a Professor of Clinical Neurosciences for North Bristol NHS Trust.
He said: “We believe this form of adult stem cell treatment, carried out in collaboration with colleagues in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the BRI, will be safe and well-tolerated but, because patients with MS have never had this treatment before, safety has to be proven before any further studies of larger numbers of patients can take place.”
“We will therefore be monitoring this small number of patients extremely carefully over the next 9-12 months. Provided, as is envisaged, we do not find serious adverse effects, we hope to raise the funds to undertake a larger study to examine the effectiveness of such treatment in MS.”
To determine general fitness and degree of disability from MS, patients meeting the initial entry criteria were assessed in the Neurology department and the Burden Centre at Frenchay Hospital.
Frenchay and also at The Hammersmith Hospital in London, various types of brain scans were conducted. Then the patients underwent bone marrow collection under a short general anesthetic at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the BRI.
Via a vein in the arm, the stem cells are delivered back to the patient later the same day after they have been processed from the marrow.
A range of various monitoring tests and scans at Frenchay and in London are then carried out over the following weeks and months.