Multiple sclerosis is known for its progression of symptoms even after a period of complete remission. There is no way of predicting when and how the progression of symptoms will occur to an individual.
There are different types of MS; relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), which is characterized by attacks of neurological symptoms followed by episodes of complete or partial remission, secondary progressive MS (SPMS), which is worsening of symptoms for the patients diagnosed with RRMS that occurs over time, and primary progressive MS (PPMS), which is characterized by a progression of symptoms since the beginning of MS episodes.
A new study published in Neurology that was done over ten years on MS patients investigated the effects of immunosuppression followed by hematopoietic stem cells transplant from the patient's body cells.
The researchers at the American Academy of Neurology looked at 210 MS patients with an average age of 35, that received stem cells transplant from 1997 to 2019. Out of the 210 patients, 122 had relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), 86 had secondary progressive MS (SPMS), and two had primary progressive MS (PPMS).
The patients were monitored and assessed at different periods after their transplant; six months, five years, and ten.
Researchers found that 80% of patients had not experienced worsening in their MS symptoms five years after the transplant. In comparison, after ten years period, 66% still had not experienced any worsening in symptoms.
When they looked at patients with the most common type of MS, relapsing-remitting MS, they found that 86% of them didn't experience any worsening in their symptoms after five years. After ten years, the percentage with no symptoms-worsening was 71.
As for patients with progressive types of MS, after five years of transplantation, 71% of them didn't experience worsening of symptoms, while the percentage was 57 after ten years.
All other treatments for MS that managed to control the progression of symptoms were not successful in doing so in the long term, as said by the study author Matilde Inglese, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Genoa in Italy and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. She also said that previous research shows that more than 50% of MS patients who take a treatment experience worsening in their symptoms after ten years, so their new research may prevent MS disabilities from getting worse over the long-term.
The study has some limitations that the researchers hope to avoid in the future, as the lack of a control group and that clinicians who measured the patient's disabilities knew that they had received stem cell transplant, leading to bias.