Interesting article today in Lancet Neurology on myeloablative therapy/stem cell transplants in MS patients at Northwestern University. In this study, they harvested the bone marrow stem cells of MS patients and then irradiated the patients to kill off their existing “bad” immune cells (similar to a light form of a cancer, bone marrow transplant). They then transplanted the marrow stem cell fraction back into the patients and saw improvements in MS. The most interesting part of this is it’s long-term implications. This technique shows promise for a number of immune dysregulation syndromes. Again, what seems clear is that this is yet another treatment that departs from the big pharma playbook. This is a medical procedure involving what amounts to fancy blood banking. If this works in MS and other immune diseases, it would replace billions spent annually on immune suppressants. Since autologous MSC’s have shown the same immune regulation effects, you may not even need the radiation step for some diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). MSC’s have shown in animal models that they have the ability to block T-cell targeting in RA patients.
So what’s the up shot? Medical procedures will continue to be developed using a wide variety of cell types that bypass the traditional big pharma model to get rid of the need for billions in biophramceuticals and pharmaceuticals. I think Pfizer has recognized this with the announcement of their cellular research centers on the east coast and in London. If you’re a patient with a chronic disease, hold on to your hat. If you’re in big pharma, follow the leader, Pfizer.