Monday, September 22, 2008

Stem Cell Reset

image found on wikimedia

On the rare occasions when I play a video game, inevitably things go seriously awry. If I haven't tossed the game controller aside in disgust, and want to continue the game, I have learned to hit the magic
reset button. Presto - I have a clean slate and can start over. 

This article in Yahoo Health today describes a potential reset option which may someday be available for serious autoimmune disease patients:

.......Doctors stored stem cells from her blood and then wiped out her faulty immune system. Her reinfused stem cells seem to have let a healthy new immune system take root, stopping more damage and, nearly two years later, letting her lungs and joints heal enough for better function.

Studies here and in Europe are aiming to reset immunity for patients with severe scleroderma — work that, if successful, could cast new light on several autoimmune diseases, from lupus to multiple sclerosis. 

The study, labeled SCOT trial, headed by Dr. Keith Sullivan of Duke University, randomly assigns patients with potentially life-threatening severe scleroderma to a year of cyclophosphamide, or stem cell transplantation :

Similar to a bone marrow transplant, it's a risky treatment usually reserved for leukemia. A type of stem cell that generates immune-system cells is culled from patients' blood, and then radiation or chemotherapy or both destroy circulating immune cells — leaving the person vulnerable to life-threatening infections until the stem cells are returned and produce again.

Why would reinfusing a patient's own stem cells help? The theory is that someone genetically predisposed to certain autoimmune diseases stays healthy until something in the environment triggers misfiring immunity — meaning stem cells shouldn't be diseased, explains Dr. Keith Sullivan of Duke University.

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