World first in MS fight as Bristol patients set to undergo stem cell trial
CUTTING-edge stem cell treatment to repair the damage caused by multiple sclerosis is to be used on Bristol patients as a world first.
The new procedure involves taking patients' own bone marrow stem cells and injecting them into their veins in order to kickstart their bodies to repair the damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS).
Researchers at Bristol University and Frenchay Hospital expect to try the treatment on 80 people within months.
The team behind the project told the Evening Post they are now in the final stages of fundraising for the clinical trials – which will be the first of their kind – and hope to start in February with people who have longstanding MS.
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They will be carried out at the bone marrow unit currently in Bristol Children's Hospital with the rest of the trial being administered through the dedicated Bristol and Avon MS Centre (Brams) on the Frenchay Hospital site.
Professor of clinical neurosciences Neil Scolding, pictured, said: "We are very excited by this as it'll be the first phase two trial of any repair therapy in MS, not only in the UK but anywhere and we want to get it right."
A smaller safety trial in six patients was completed last year and if the results from the latest research are significant it could lead to the procedure becoming available within a few years.
People have already come forward to be part of the clinical trial and they are now waiting for the final finances to be in place.
"We've been very lucky in getting quite a large donation of just over $1 million – that's a very large part of what we need. Although we are still looking for further funds, we are pretty sure we will have them in time," said Prof Scolding. "We've had an enormous amount of interest and a very large amount of patients. With most clinical trials it's a problem finding enough patients but with this we're going to have to turn patients away. There are only going to be 80 because we don't have the resources to do any more."
Prof Scolding said that having the dedicated MS centre had made it easier to prepare for the clinical trial and meant that the dedicated team was on hand to support it.