Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is an intense chemotherapy treatment for MS. It aims to stop the damage MS causes by wiping out and then regrowing your immune system, using your stem cells.
Who is HSCT for?
Clinical trial results have shown that HSCT is most effective for people:
- with signs of active inflammation, as seen by frequent relapses alongside new or active lesions on an MRI scan
- who are early on in their disease course
- without significant disability (EDSS score of less than 6.5).
These results form the basis of European Guidelines that most clinics use to assess who is eligible for HSCT.
It will mainly include people with highly active relapsing MS who are still having relapses despite taking disease modifying therapies (DMTs).
If someone has progressive MS and still has active inflammation (either relapses or lesions on an MRI), HSCT may be able to stop or slow this.
But HSCT can’t regrow nerves or repair damaged myelin, so it can’t help those with advanced progressive MS who are no longer having relapses and don’t shown signs of inflammation on an MRI.
Researchers are working hard to find effective treatments for people with progressive MS.
How does HSCT work?
HSCT aims to 'reset' the immune system to stop it attacking the central nervous system. It uses chemotherapy to remove the harmful immune cells and then rebuilds the immune system using a type of stem cell found in your bone marrow, called haematopoietic stem cells.
The stem cells used in the treatment can produce all the different cells in your blood, including immune cells. But, they can't regenerate damaged nerves or other parts of the brain and spinal cord.