Multiple sclerosis is a disease that causes nerve damage preventing messages from the brain to reach different parts of the body. The condition is progressive and MS patients in Australia have of late been exploring treatment options elsewhere to address their condition. The reason is a procedure not offered within Australia but one that can be accessed overseas. The radical procedure involves using the patient’s own stem cells to inject them with a new immune system.
Known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant, the procedure harvests the affected individual’s stem cells from their blood or bone marrow, expose the body’s immune system to chemotherapy treatment to thoroughly kill it and then supply a new immune system by injecting the removed stem cells.
Complicated as the procedure may be, the results are promising for multiple sclerosis patients as it shows potential for curbing the physical decline associated with the condition. It is also a call for hope for the 23,000 Australians who currently live with the condition.
However, since the procedure in not available in Australia, hopeful candidates need to travel abroad to receive the transplant. Of the various locations where the operation can be carried out, Russia seems to be a local favourite. Many Australians have already travelled to Russia to get the transplant done while many others are now considering doing the same.
But the costs associated with the treatment can be hefty. For MS patient Paul Catelli, estimated costs rest at an astounding $40,000 for the transplant with an additional $20,000 needed for other expenses such as travel costs, lodging and medical appointments.
Another MS patient, Kristy Cruise had also decided to travel to Russia to get the procedure done. Already confined to a wheelchair as well as having no sensation down her left side, MS. Cruise hoped that the treatment would put a stop to her debilitating condition. After a successful operation the Merrimac mother of two says that the procedure put a stop to her deteriorating health. She is now free of her wheelchair and feeling better than she did in a long time. The transplant cost Ms. Cruise a hefty $50,000.
The stem cell transplant treatment is currently being trialled in Sydney but only a handful of patients have been selected for the trail procedure. It is yet to be decided whether the procedure is safe enough to practice and made available to the public at large.
Ms Australia chief executive considers the treatment a high risk and unproven procedure. But at the same time encourages any patients to pursue the treatment if they wish to do so. It is practiced by a small number of doctors and hospitals for those patients who suffer from an early, aggressive form of the disease. Plus such patients have shown resistance to other forms of treatment.
It is advised that should patients wish to seek the treatment outside Australia, they are encouraged to find out as much information as possible along with any associated risks of the operation.
1) Miracle stem cell treatment in Russia helps Gold Coast mum with multiple sclerosis, http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/news/gold-coast/miracle-stem-cell-treatment-in-russia-helps-gold-coast-mum-with-multiple-sclerosis/story-fnj94idh-1226848533973
2) Russian Roulette: http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/8810871/Russian-Roulette-medical-treatment
3) Brunswick father Paul Catelli will undergo autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant in Russia to fight multiple sclerosis: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/north/brunswick-father-paul-catelli-will-undergo-autologous-haematopoietic-stem-cell-transplant-in-russia-to-fight-multiple-sclerosis/story-fnglenug-1226888023446