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Hadassah Physicians Make Research Breakthroughs to Benefit Neurological Patients

New cell growth seen from harvesting and growing bone marrow stem cells
Genever McBain
New cell growth seen from harvesting and growing bone marrow stem cells

(JERUSALEM – November 26, 2007) – Physicians at Hadassah Medical Organization have discovered that it is possible to remove stem cells from a patient's bone marrow, to isolate these cells under special conditions, and to generate new cells. This treatment, still in the research stage, has been tested on 25 neurological patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). As part of this process, mesenchymal cells (mature stem cells) are extracted from the patient and transplanted by injection into his/her spinal fluid, with each patient serving as his/her own donor. The transplanted cells are marked in order to track and verify that they reach the intended destination in the patient's body.

This groundbreaking research was performed by Professor Dmitrius Karussis, a senior neurologist at Hadassah and the director of the new Multiple Sclerosis Center, working in collaboration with the University of Athens, and Professor Shimon Slavin, the former director of the  Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT) and the BMT Laboratory at Hadassah.

"During the initial stage, our research included studying the effectiveness of stem cells in laboratory animals. We found that stem cells from bone marrow can reduce cerebral damage and improve the animal's functioning," Professor Karussis said. "Most of the patients who underwent this process report an improvement in their condition."

Hadassah recently opened a new Multiple Sclerosis Center, which provides innovative treatments and is operated by neurologists who are world leaders in research, as well as rehabilitation physicians and advisors in the fields of urology, ophthalmology, and social work. There are 3,000-4,000 multiple sclerosis patients in Israel and about a third of them are treated at Hadassah. Many patients from around the world also come to Hadassah for treatment.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the central nervous system in which the immune system attacks the myelin insulation of neurons. As a result, the nervous system is damaged at multiple levels, leading to functional deficiencies in a number of neurological systems: sensory, motor, balance, sphincteral, and visual.

"The onset of the disease is usually between the ages of 20 to 40, and can continue for 30 or more years. Thus, the center we opened is important for treating the patient over the course of years," said Professor Tamir Ben-Hur, the director of the Department of Neurology at Hadassah.

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