Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable and often disabling autoimmune disease, where a patient’s own immune cells attack the nerve covering—an insulating layer called myelin—of the brain, which disrupts the flow of information from the brain to other parts of the body. Ranging from mild to severe, MS symptoms differ from patient to patient and can change and fluctuate over time. Symptoms include everything from fatigue to numbness, vertigo, unstable gait, depression and cognitive changes. MS is challenging to diagnose.
Malia's MS Odyssey: A Life-Changing Treatment
Malia was a top Dallas trial attorney--a senior partner in a law firm--and the mother of three children-- the youngest, age five. Her energy level was high and her life was full. And then she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The next 16 years were a journey of declining energy and mobility. Ultimately, she could only walk a very short distance with a walker. Her balance became more unsteady. Her speech was harder to understand. And the fatigue got so bad that even taking a shower was so exhausting that she needed a nap afterward.
Then, during a very extensive search on the internet for innovative treatments, she discovered the work of Prof. Dimitrios Karussis, Senior Neurologist and head of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. She learned that Prof. Karussis was conducting a world-first clinical trial involving the injection of a patient’s own stem cells directly into the spinal cord.
Malia met Prof. Karussis for the first time in December 2014. Since she was accepted into HMO for treatment, she has had four stem cell transfusions. With the very first one, her energy soared. With each subsequent one, she improved in different ways. Sometimes, the improvement in her gait was most noticeable; other times, it was the clarity of her speech; with the last infusion, it was a tremendous improvement in her balance.
“I had forgotten what it was like to feel like a regular person--like someone with a normal level of energy; I had forgotten what it was like to feel good,” Malia says. Malia feels blessed. “Until you’ve been there," she says, “you can’t really understand just how important it is to feel like a regular person.”
Professor Tamir Ben-Hur—world-renowned stem cell research specialist and head of Hadassah Medical Organization’s prestigious Department of Neurology—hypothesized that transplanted stem cells could play a vital role in combating and curing diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Expecting that the transplanted stem cells would regenerate myelin, his team discovered that stem cells actually spur the brain to help itself.
- HMO researchers led by Professor Dimitrios Karussis, head of the Multiple Sclerosis Center, conducted the first clinical trial injecting bone marrow-derived stem cells into the patient's spinal fluid, and found that they
- Inhibit inflammation
- Prevent immune cells from activating and inflicting injury to the brain
- Facilitate repair processes
Center of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Worldwide, medical research disproportionately focuses on men – leading to misdiagnosis and compromised care for women. Join Hadassah and advocate for gender equity in medical research (GEM). Learn more at hadassah.org/GEM
- The world’s first double-blind, placebo-controlled study treating Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients with adult mesenchymal (bone marrow-derived) stem cells injected into the spinal cord, is underway at HMO. The trial includes 48 patients. The ultimate goal is to generate new myelin— the coating of nerve cells that is destroyed by the disease and is crucial to preventing nerve degeneration.
- Transplanting stem cells into animals to determine if they can, indeed, generate myelin-forming cells
- Exploring how to strengthen the function of the brain’s existing adult stem cells, to help the brain protect itself from diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS)