MS News That Caught My Eye Last Week: Stem Cell Transplant, Tysabri, Exercise, Zinc

Columnist Ed Tobias comments on the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Stem Cell Transplant Found to Reduce MS Relapses, Ease Disability

This is excellent news for those of us who would like to see stem cell transplant for MS become more available and affordable. These researchers analyzed 50 studies covering a total of 4,831 people with MS, ages 26 to 60. They report that after a year, disability decreased slightly, as did the number of relapses. After five years, 73% of patients had no disability progression, and 81% were relapse-free. The overall survival rate following aHSCT was 94%, with 4% of patients dying due to transplant-related complications. Do those figures present an acceptable risk that you’d take in exchange for the benefit that’s reported here?

Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant (aHSCT), a procedure that aims to “reset” the immune system, generally reduces disability and relapse rates in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new meta-analysis.

“Current data encourage a broader application of AHSCT for treating patients with MS while still considering proper patient selection and transplant methods,” researchers wrote.

The study, “Autologous Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation in Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” was published in Neurology and Therapy.

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No Neuron Damage Increase With 6-week Switch to Tysabri: Study

Here’s another study reporting that extending Tysabri’s dosing interval from four to six weeks doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the medication. In my case, I was treated with Tysabri for about seven years. Midway through that treatment, as my JC virus titer level increased, I was switched from four to eight weeks, with no noticeable effects on Tysabri’s efficacy.

Switching from a standard monthly course of Tysabri (natalizumab) to an extended-interval dosing administered every six weeks does not seem to increase neuronal damage in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a study found.

While individual blood levels of neurofilament light chain (NfL), a biomarker of nerve damage, did not fluctuate much over a year, older patients were more likely to have at least one NfL measurement that deviated significantly from the average than younger patients, data showed.

The findings suggest that “the best utility of sNfL measurements is for individual longitudinal follow-up of younger adult age,” the researchers wrote.


Research on Exercise’s Protective Effects Flawed, Researchers Say

And here I was, believing that exercise has helped my MS symptoms. It’s a big surprise to read that more research is needed to determine whether that’s truly the case. The researchers who think this point to two published papers that assessed several clinical trials and concluded there was no evidence that exercise protected our nervous systems. On the other hand, they also say there’s no evidence it doesn’t. When is research definitive?

An international team of scientists is calling for more rigorous studies to test whether exercise can help protect the nervous system from damage in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The scientists argue clinical trials that have evaluated exercise in MS have marked flaws in their design, making it impossible to draw meaningful conclusions from available data.


Higher, Possibly Damaging, Zinc Levels Seen in Blood of MS Patients

Earlier studies have reported that if zinc levels are low, brain cells can die. If they’re high, they can be neurotoxic. Obtaining an equilibrium, this report says, may be essential to improving clinical outcomes in people with MS. But it also lists as a “limitation” that the study design did not determine the relationship between zinc status and MS severity. It seems to me that’s a key element.

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) have significantly higher and potentially damaging blood levels of zinc and a greater activity of the superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzyme than is evident in people without MS or similar diseases, a study reported.

SOD is an enzyme that requires zinc to function properly, including in protecting cells from a form of cellular damage called oxidative stress. In line with its protective role, the study also found that patients with higher levels of SOD activity were less likely to experience disease relapses.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Patricia Juniper avatar

Patricia Juniper

Your information about the use of a stem cell transplant in the treatment on
of MS is quite new to me but extremely interesting. I have a friend who is looking into this treatment as her MS is getting worse. She is in her mid-fifties and still functioning well.

More significantly for me, my daughter, age 59, lives in Australia and is totally handicapped with MS. She was diagnosed at age 21, and has had a really rough time. Now she can use one hand minimally for eating. She has to have everything done for her. Would a stem cell transplant be a viable option for my daughter given her age and the severity of her disease?

I look forward to your response.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.



Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Patrica,

I'm not a healthcare professional so I can't give you advice on whether a stem cell transplant is appropriate. I can tell you that the information I've read about this procedure reports that it's generally regarded as more appropriate for someone in the early stages of MS. Here's a recent story. You can find more information by going to the home page of this website and searching for "aHSCT."

I wish the best for you and your daughter,



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