Your Health: Treating autoimmune disorders

Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 5:21 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Fifty million Americans are living with an autoimmune disorder, making it one of the leading causes of chronic illness in the country.

In fact, there are more than 80 autoimmune diseases. For most, there is no cure, but that may soon change.

Celine Dion was diagnosed with stiff person’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes uncontrollable spasms. Stiff person’s syndrome joins a long list of incurable, debilitating autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

Kathy Kisk has been living with MS for more than 20 years, which had left her in a wheelchair.

“I had this numbness that was going down the inside of my legs and I had a little bit of numbness in my hands,” Miska said. “It’s hard. It feels like you’re giving up a little bit of your independence.”

As with many autoimmune diseases, they get worse over time. And over time medications and therapies sometimes stop working. Autologous stem cell transplants may be a last resort.

First, patients receive high-dose chemotherapy to wipe out the immune system. Then, blood stem cells are taken from the patient or a donor, processed, and then put back into the patient.

70% of MS patients can stay in remission for five years. It’s also been shown up to 70% of patients with systemic sclerosis remain in remission 10 years after transplantation.

Stem cell transplantation is still considered an experimental treatment for autoimmune disorders. Early results have been promising, but more clinical trials need to be done.

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