Health Team

Adult Stem Cells Show They Can Conquer More Than Cancer

Posted February 26, 2008 2:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 26, 2008 5:50 p.m. EST

— Adult stem-cell therapy is commonly used to treat several types of cancer. Now it's being used to treat heart trouble and other diseases – and it even helped a man with multiple sclerosis.

Barry Goudy learned he had multiple sclerosis in 1995. He was losing feeling in his left leg, and then his vision began to go.

“I went back to my neurologist and said, ‘Tell me how I can fight this,’" Goudy said.

Goudy enrolled in a clinical trial in 2003.

After five days of chemotherapy to destroy his immune cells, doctors used his own stem cells to rebuild his immune system.

He said it worked wonderfully for him.

“I have no symptoms of MS. I do no treatment for MS. I do no shots,” Goudy said.

Researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed the outcomes of about 2,500 patients who had stem-cell transplants. They found that it helped many patients with auto-immune diseases and even helped improve heart function for patients who suffered heart attacks.

“It's a whole new approach to these diseases. Rather than just surgery or drugs that you can use, (it is) a cellular approach that seems in many different studies to be benefitting the patient,” said Dr. Richard K. Burt, chief of the Division of Immunotherapy for Autoimmune Diseases at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Unlike embryonic stem cells that can only be collected after the destruction of an embryo, adult stem cells come from a patient’s own blood or bone marrow or another adult’s.

“There's very low risk – less than 1 percent mortality from the procedure,” Burt said.

Goudy now leads an active life, even coaching a hockey team.

“I've had five years of good life. Five years! If I didn't do the transplant, I would probably be in a wheelchair today,” Goudy said.