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Stem cell transplants show promise for multiple sclerosis

The Kashmir Monitor

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US researchers have reversed multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms in early stage patients by using bone marrow stem cell transplants to reset the immune system,they said on Thursday.
Some 81 per cent of patients in the early phase study showed signs of improvement with the treatment,which used chemotherapy to destroy the immune system,and injections of the patient’s bone marrow cells taken beforehand to rebuild it.
“We just start over with new cells from the stem cells,” said Dr Richard Burt of Northwestern University in Chicago,whose study appears in the journal Lancet Neurology.
Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath protecting nerve cells. It affects 2.5 million people globally and can cause mild illness in some people and permanent disability in others.
Symptoms may include numbness or weakness in the limbs,loss of vision and an unsteady gait.
“MS usually occurs in adults,” Burt said in a telephone interview. Before they get the disease,their immune systems work well,he said,but something happens to make the immune system attack itself.
His approach is aimed at turning back the clock to a time before the immune system began attacking itself.
Burt said the approach ? called autologous non-myeloablative hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation ? is a bit gentler than the therapy used in cancer patients because rather than destroying the entire bone marrow,it attacks just the immune system component of the marrow,making it less toxic.
Burt and colleagues tried the treatment on 21 patients aged 20 to 53 with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis,an earlier stage in the disease in which symptoms come and go.
Patients in the study were not helped by at least six months of standard treatment with interferon beta.
After an average follow-up of about three years,17 patients improved by at least one measure on a disability scale,and the disease stabilized in all patients.
Patients continued to improve for up to 24 months after the transplant procedure,and then stabilized. Many had improvements in walking,vision,incontinence and limb strength.
“To date,all therapies for MS have been designed and approved because they slowed the rate of neurological decline. None of them has ever reversed neurological dysfunction,which is what this has done,” Burt said.
Other teams have seen improvements in patients using a more aggressive approach. In one study led by Dr Mark Freedman of the University of Ottawa last year,17 MS patients treated with the more aggressive approach were showing signs of remission two years after treatment.
Burt stressed that the treatment approach needed to be tested in a more scientifically rigorous randomized clinical trial,in which half of the patients get the transplant treatment and the other half get standard treatment.
That trial is under way.


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Health

Higher salt intake can cause gastrointestinal bloating, says study

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People report more gastrointestinal bloating when they eat a diet high in salt, a study has found.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US re-analysed data from a large clinical trial conducted two decades ago, and found that high sodium intake increased bloating among trial participants.

“Bloating is one of the leading gastrointestinal complaints in the US and can be exacerbated in some people by a high-fiber diet. Our results suggest that they might be able to reduce that bloating, without compromising on healthy fiber, by lowering their sodium intake,” said Noel Mueller, senior author of the study.

 

Bloating is estimated to affect up to a third of US adults overall, and more than 90 per cent of those with irritable bowel syndrome, according to the study.

Bloating features a buildup of excess gas in the gut. The production of gas can be attributed to gas-producing gut bacteria breaking down fiber. There is also some evidence that sodium can stimulate bloating.

The study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, is the first to examine sodium as a cause of bloating in the context of low- and high-fiber diets.

The study analysed data from the DASH-Sodium trial, conducted at four clinical centres during 1998-99. It tested the DASH diet, a high-fiber diet which is relatively low in fat and high in fruits, nuts, and vegetables, against a low-fiber control diet.

Each of the two diets was tested at three levels of sodium, and the 412 participants all had high blood pressure at the trial start.

The trial was set up chiefly to determine the effect of dietary sodium and other factors on blood pressure, but included data on participants’ reports of bloating — data that Mueller and his colleagues analysed for the new study.

The team found that prior to the trial, 36.7 per cent of the participants reported bloating, which is more or less in line with national surveys of bloating prevalence.

They found too that the high-fiber DASH diet increased the risk of bloating by about 41 percent, compared to the low-fiber control diet — and men were more susceptible to this effect, compared to women.

But the scientists also determined that sodium was a factor in bloating. When they combined data from the DASH and control diets, and compared the highest level of sodium intake to the lowest, they found that the high-sodium versions of those diets collectively increased the risk of bloating by about 27 per cent compared to the low-sodium versions.

The key implication is that reducing sodium can be an effective way to reduce bloating — and in particular may be able to help people maintain a healthy, high-fiber diet.

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Health

Second-hand smoking dangerous:study

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A recent study has discovered a link between second-hand smoking and development of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

The study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found out that exposure to second-hand smoking increases the risk of various diseases and the researchers investigated the link between exposure to second-hand smoking and CKD.

The study included 131,196 never-smokers who participated in the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study from 2001 to 2014. Participants were classified into 3 groups based on the frequency of second-hand smoke exposure as assessed with survey questionnaires: no-exposure, less than 3 days per week of exposure, and 3 or more days per week of exposure.

 

Participants with less than three days per week and those with three or more days per week of exposure had 1.48-times and 1.44-times higher odds of having CKD when compared with participants with no second-hand cigarette exposure

“Second-hand smoke exposure at home or in the workplace is still prevalent despite legislative actions prohibiting public smoking.

This exposure was found to be clearly related with CKD, even with less-frequent amounts of second-hand smoke exposure,” said Jung Tak Park, the lead researcher.

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Health

Vitamin C may lower BP, sugar levels in diabetics

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Taking vitamin C supplements can help diabetics by lowering elevated blood sugar levels throughout the day, a study has found.

The research, published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, also found that vitamin C lowered blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes, suggesting benefits for heart health too. According to Glenn Wadley from Deakin University in Australia, the results may help millions currently living with the health condition.

”We found that participants had a significant 36 per cent drop in the blood sugar spike after meals. This also meant that they spent almost three hours less per day living in a state of hyperglycaemia,” Wadley said. “This is extremely positive news as hyperglycaemia is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in people living with type 2 diabetes,” he said.

 

“We also found that the proportion of people with hypertension halved after taking the vitamin C capsules, with both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels dropping significantly,” Wadley added. The dose of vitamin C used in the study was about 10 times the normal dietary intake and readily available from most health food stores, researchers said.

“Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties can help counteract the high levels of free radicals found in people with diabetes, and it’s encouraging to see this benefits a number of the disease’s common comorbidities, such as high blood pressure,” he said. “While physical activity, good nutrition and current diabetes medications are standard care and very important for managing type 2 diabetes, some people can find it tough to manage their blood glucose levels even with medication,” he added.

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