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Did you know stem cell transplants are gaining popularity as a treatment for multiple sclerosis? According to new research, stem cell therapy can stop or delay progression of the disease. The benefits of the procedures are particularly apparent in younger patients who didnt experience relief from other modes of treatments.

However, stem cell therapy is effective only in multiple sclerosis that is non-aggressive in nature, Dr. Riccardo Saccardi, the studys coauthor based at the Careggi University Hospitals cell therapy and transfusion medicine unit in Florence, Italy, said.

Stem cell transplantation cannot be considered a cure for [multiple sclerosis]. However, it can be considered a concrete option for patients showing aggressive [multiple sclerosis] who have not responded to approved treatments, he clarified.

To stop the advance of multiple sclerosis, doctors use the patients stem cells to recharge the immune system. This procedure, however, poses a huge risk since it requires shutting down the immune system before the stem cells are transplanted.

Researchers reported that close to 3 percent of patients who underwent the transplant procedure died. This is a major concern since multiple sclerosis is not a life-threatening condition.

Dr. Michael Racke of the neurology department at Ohio State University added that taking on the procedure is a big gamble a potentially dangerous treatment for a disease that is not life-threatening.

There may be a population of [multiple sclerosis] patients that could be identified that might do well with transplant, Dr. Racke said. It's important to select patients in such a way that they actually get well with the transplant.

Stem cell transplants were initially used as treatment for disease with high mortality rates, which include lymphoma, leukemia and other cancers.

An estimated 2 million people in the world have multiple sclerosis. While there is no cure for the disorder, medication can slow its progress while managing its symptoms.

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