Woman with MS shows remarkable progress in stem cell trial

CBC News
A woman near Ottawa has surpassed all expectations after risking her life to take part in a medical experiment for multiple sclerosis.

In 1996 at the age of 21, Jennifer Molson of Kanata, Ont., woke up with a tingling in her fingers that spread to her arms. Within a few months, she could hardly move her left side.

Jennifer Molson
Molson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks itself, causing damage to the spinal cord, nerves and brain.

Molson has the most common form of MS, the relapsing remitting variety, said Dr. Mark Freedman, a neurologist in Ottawa.

She eventually needed to use a cane and leg brace and was headed for life in a wheelchair. Freedman asked her to become involved in a medical study with a big hitch.

"We could offer her a chance at stopping her disease, but at the same there, there was a risk that she may die," said Freedman.

Over several months in 2002, doctors harvested stem cells from Molson's blood, removed all traces of MS, and then gave her high does of chemotherapy to wipe out her immune system. Then the stem cells were transplanted back to her.

For the first two years, Molson recovered slowly. She planned her wedding and walked down the aisle wearing a wig, but no leg braces.

The young woman who couldn't tie her shoelaces is now able to go for walks and take care of household chores.

"I can get in the car and go to work," said Molson. "I can't believe I'm the same person."

MS can cause damage to the spinal cord, nerves and brain.
None of the other 11 participants in the study has gotten worse, but Molson has shown the most improvement so far.

Doctors can't explain why, but the experiment may answer some important questions about MS, said Dr. Jock Murray, past director of the MS clinic at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"The idea that you might be able to stop the disease by a process like this one is extremely hopeful," Murray said.

Molson thinks she is cured but doctors aren't ready to declare it, saying no one knows how long the effects will last.

Read the article at cbc.ca
Submitted  3/15/2006 11:27:58 PM