A new stem cell treatment may help people who struggle with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease that affects about 400,000 people in the United States and more than two million people worldwide.
A new stem cell treatment helped him “phenomenally,” said Rep. Rick Hardcastle, state representative of Texas, after he participated in a recent round of autologous adult stem cell treatments to help his multiple sclerosis.
The treatment involved taking adult stem cells from his own fat, sending these to a lab where they are developed, then reintroducing the stem cells into the patient via intravenous therapy.
The treatment is not as controversial as therapies that use embryonic stem. But doctors in the U.S. are still skeptical of the procedure, because it has not been approved yet by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But while FDA has yet to approve of the procedure, it hasn’t disapproved of it either. Also, the therapy is similar to the one Texas Governor Rick Perry underwent in July.
Hardcastle, who was diagnosed with MS almost 10 years ago, said the treatments worked extraordinarily well for him. “I’m walking on water and near bulletproof,” Hardcastle told the local Wichita Falls, Texas news agency, Times Record News. Since I had the third treatment, I have fished in the river in Alaska. I have walked up and down stairs without having to hold onto the handrail like a goon. It’s just been phenomenal so far.”
The lawmaker said that just having his balance back was a surprising thing, since his balance was one of the first things to deteriorate shortly after he was diagnosed with MS.
“Eight years ago, I was having to literally stop to step over a concrete barrier on a parking curb. I just walk across it now like I did 20 years ago,” he said. He also said his hands no longer shake.
He added that the treatment he received is, in effect, the same that people have sought in Colombia, Costa Rica and Korea for the last 10 years.
“Under Texas law and federal law, it’s not prohibited now because it’s similar to saving your own blood — taking your own blood for reuse during surgery — because it’s your own,” Hardcastle said. “There are no outside medicines or stem cells included in the treatment.”
MS: a disabling disease
For many people living with multiple sclerosis (MS), life is often hardly more than a struggle to survive. MS is a disease where a person’s own immune system attacks the insulation of the nerves, destroying them progressively over time, along with the nerves themselves.
Beginning with stiffness or weakness in the limbs and blurred vision, as more and more nerves get affected, vision, speech, walking, writing, memory and the other functions controlled by the nervous system begin to deteriorate.
In time, MS victims suffer from spasms and tremors, pain, incontinence, constipation and even memory loss, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and depression.
Many MS sufferers build their lives around not overexerting themselves and entire families have to adapt to help victims simply get through the day without worsening the ailment. The life expectancy of MS sufferers is not much lower than that for healthy people, but many of them find it extremely hard to live with the symptoms and end up taking their own lives.
Not a miracle cure
But Hardcastle said he didn’t want to raise the hopes of people surviving with MS. “I’m trying not to sound too excited because for one out of every five people, it doesn’t (give) phenomenal results. It’ll still have some results, but they won’t be phenomenal. So it’s not a miracle cure by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a treatment that works.”
Hardcastle to help other Texas patients
Meanwhile, the Texas lawmaker said he is trying to figure out how to help MS patients pay for stem therapy treatments if they don’t have the ability to pay for these or are already on disability.
Just a one-time treatment costs around $25,000 total, he said, which is why he is also working with insurance companies to get at least part of the treatment approved and paid for by insurance. He said payment plans for patients also are in the works.
“My goal is to make it more available to the everyday person in Texas,” he said.