Causes, Groundbreaking Treatment and Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and changes the way nerves work causing anything from paralysis to brain damage. Almost 3 million people worldwide live with MS; this means every 5 minutes, someone in the world is diagnosed. In this episode, one of the foremost experts in the world Dr. Dimitrios Karussis, Director of the MS Center at Hadassah Medical Organization discusses his groundbreaking research and what every patient should have when battling MS.

About this episode

Prof. Dimitrios Karussis is the head of the MS Center, Hadassah Medical Organization Laboratory of Neuroimmunology.  He is considered one of the world experts in the field of clinical applications of stem cells in neurological diseases. Prof. Karussis has published more than 120 peer reviewed scientific papers, mostly in the field of neuroimmunology and stem cells. He has delivered more than 150 invited plenary lectures and served as chairman in tens of European and world congresses in the field of neuroimmunology. He serves as ad-hoc reviewer and as member of the editorial board in many major journals.  Prof. Karussis has pioneered the studies with Linomide and with bone marrow hematopoetic and mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in MS.  Since 2010, Prof Karussis is the elected President of the Israeli Neuroimmunological Society. He has hosted and was President of the International Neuroimmunological meeting in 2016 in Jerusalem.  Prof. Karussis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. He graduated from the School of Medicine at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with excellency. Prof. Karussis moved to Jerusalem in 1988. He received his PhD degree with a specialization in Neurobiology (Immunology) from the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine.

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and Dr. Dimitrios Karussis, a senior neurologist and director of the MS Center at Hadassah Hospital, is one of the world’s leading experts on the disease. There are more than two million people around the world living with MS. The progressive nature of the illness often means people who are impacted are eventually confined to wheelchairs.

But Dr. Karussis and his research collaborators at Hadassah — Dr. Panayiota Petrou, Dr. Ibrahim Kassis and Dr. Ariel Ginzberg — are hoping to change that.

For the past 30 years — in the laboratory working with animals and later with patients at the hospital — they have been fine-tuning a hypothesis: Could he use stem cells to help MS patients regain mobility? Karussis has published more than 120 peer-reviewed scientific papers, given more than 150 lectures and he finally has his answer. The stem cells — harvested from the bone marrow of a patient — not only stopped the degenerative disease in its track but, remarkably, allowed the majority of patients who received the treatment to regain motor functions that were once lost.

In one particular case, as Dr. Karussis explained in this month’s podcast, a lawyer from Texas afflicted with MS was able to stop using a wheelchair after her treatment at Hadassah Hospital. "When we see this potential, then we start thinking, where's the limit?" To that end, Karussis is about to embark on a worldwide Phase 3 trial. He hopes the collaboration, which he will shepherd from Hadassah’s department of neurology, will lead to FDA approval for the trailblazing stem cell treatment.

Through decades of research on both MS and ALS, Karussis' guiding light has been the father of medicine and fellow native of Greece, Hippocrates. "The biggest mistake that physicians are doing is to deal mechanically with the patient, and just becoming a technician of medicine," he said in this episode. "I believe that we have to be connected with the spirit and the mind of the patients to understand what they are going through. We have to understand that we have to provide hope. Because if we see that the success of treatments is so much related to what we call placebo effect, then this means that if we enhance hope, a positive attitude and positive thinking — then we can do much more and we can be connected and fight together with a patient who has any disease."

What else you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Why many MS patients fared well during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How Dr. Karussis ended up at Hadassah Medical Center
  • The differences between bad stress and good stress

Further learning:

"Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine" is a production of Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America. Hadassah enhances the health of people around the world through medical education, care and research innovations at the Hadassah Medical Organization. For more information on the latest advances in medicine please head over Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. If you haven't already, please leave us a review on the iTunes store. It only takes a minute and when you do it helps others discover "Hadassah on Call." The show is hosted by Benyamin Cohen and edited by Skyler Inman and the team at the Hadassah offices in both New York and Israel.

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The Branch
This podcast offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of Jews and Arabs in Israel forging meaningful relationships. Presented by Hadassah and hosted by Dina Kraft, "The Branch" shines a light on the stories of people living the example of a shared society. Together. Even though it’s complicated.