Leah Telder of Surrey, British Columbia, had enjoyed ballet dancing until struck with multiple sclerosis in her teens. The demyelinating, auto-immune disorder eventually robbed her of her vision and confined her to a wheelchair. Now 24 years old, Leah is the youngest of seventeen MS patients who have been treated in Canada with their own (autologous) adult stem cells.
Conducted in October of 2007 in Ottawa, the procedure was led by the neurologist Dr. Mark Freedman and the bone marrow transplant specialist Dr. Harold Atkins. In this procedure, stem cells are harvested from the peripheral blood of each patient and are then expanded in a laboratory and readministered after the patient has received a heavy dose of chemotherapy, which is administered with the specific intent of destroying the immune system. Although 16 of the 17 patients are improving as a result of the stem cells, one patient in the study died as a result of the chemotherapy. In fact, at these high doses, each patient has a 5% (or a one in 20) chance of dying from the chemotherapy. Whether or not the chemotherapy even needs to be administered at all is increasingly a topic of debate, and there is strong scientific evidence to support the claim that chemotherapy is unnecessary in this type of stem cell treatment.
Meanwhile, as a result of being treated with this particular chemotherapy procedure, and as a result of being successfully rescued by her own adult stem cells immediately following the chemotherapy procedure, Leah is once again able to walk by herself, and most of her blurred vision has been restored to normal.