A scientist based in Israel is said to be on the brink of making a breakthrough in the treatment of neurological diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), and now Australians are being encouraged to support his research.
Dimitrios Karussis, who is the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Centre at Hadassah Hospital is Jerusalem, is conducting early-stage clinical trials in the use of mesenchymal stem therapy to treat MS.
MS is one of the most common conditions of the central nervous system, which interferes with the nerve impulses in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, causing problems with vision, balance, muscle control and other bodily functions. There is no known cause of or cure for MS, which comes in four forms: relapsing-remitting, secondary progressive, primary progressive and progressive relapsing.
The disease affects more than 25,000 Aussies, with most diagnoses occurring between the ages of 20 and 40 and three times more often in women than men. Although there is no cure, there are treatments that can ease symptoms and reduce the risk of relapses, as well as numerous clinical trials into new therapies.
Mesenchymal therapy (MSC), which Dr Karussis is working on, is different to the current primary MS therapy called autologous haematopietic stem cell tranplantation (AHSCT), in that it doesn’t involve the use of chemotherapy and uses stem cells that can be taken from other parts of the body, not just immune stem cells.
Although MSC research is only in its early stages, MS Research Australia says that the studies have shown that it may have the ability to help the central nervous system impacted by MS to repair itself. But it’s too early to determine whether MSC will be effective at stopping or reversing the effects of MS, the non-profit organisation said.
Dr Karussis’ research at Hadassah is focused on people with primary progressive MS but the same concept could potentially be used in the future to treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral disease (ALS) as well as people who’ve sustained brain or spinal injuries or suffered from a stroke.
His work is being supported by Hadassah Australia, which is currently raising money for new, more extensive trials of his MSC. “The research offers dramatic hope for more than 25 million people worldwide dealing with MS,” the Australian philanthropic organisation says.
Dr Karussis is also confident that he’s working on a revolutionary therapy. “I am confident that within the next three to five years, we may provide a treatment to patients that can stop the progression of these diseases and induce some kind of recovery,” he said.