Stem cell treatments are still a fairly new line of medical study, but that hasn’t stopped medical researchers from testing stem cell therapies for a number of diseases. As stem cell therapies continue to make strides in a positive direction, more and more people dealing with chronic and debilitating illnesses see a new door open to them. Stem cell therapy has ushered in a number of miraculous success stories; these are just a few of the amazing recoveries stem cell treatment has facilitated.
Complete Remission from Leukemia Thanks to Stem Cells
Melody Hawley of Nampa, Idaho, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer, in late 2017. With chemo and radiation therapy, it seemed that her illness was getting better, but in the summer of 2018 the cancer grew out of control. Hawley’s oncologist, Dr. Travis Williams at the St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI), turned to stem cell treatments as a last resort to keep Hawley alive.
The search for an allogeneic (non-related) donor started with Hawley’s daughter, who unfortunately wasn’t a match. The MSTI then turned to the Be the Match National Marrow Donor Program. A perfect match was found, the only one on the entire registry. The 1-in-17-million match was a miracle for Hawley and her doctors at the MSTI. In December 2018, one year after Hawley’s diagnosis, the stem cells from the anonymous donor were transplanted into Hawley.
Dr. Williams has stated that there is no sign of the leukemia in Hawley’s body. 100 days after the transplant with no signs of the cancer put Hawley on the list for complete remission. It’s still too early to say Hawley has been indefinitely cured, but the outlook has already been far better than she or her doctors could have thought possible at the start of her illness.
The Second Case of an HIV Cure Through Stem Cells
An unnamed patient diagnosed with HIV in 2003 has achieved remission from HIV with stem cell therapy. This news comes off of the coattails of the first ever recorded patient cured of HIV, the so-called Berlin patient.
The unnamed patient received a blood transplant in 2016 for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. The donor’s blood stem cells had a mutation that made them resistant to HIV infection, and a year after the transplant, the patient’s HIV fell to undetectable levels. The patient was even able to stop taking antiretroviral medication 16 months after the transplant.
It will still be a few years before anyone can claim the unnamed patient is officially cured, but experts say the concept of a cure is becoming more and more likely each passing day.
A Young Woman is Cured of Her Sickle Cell Anemia
The largest body of success stories for stem cell therapy comes from patients with sickle cell anemia. Over half a dozen patients with the illness have been treated with stem cells and show remarkable recovery, regularly prompting the use of the word “cure.”
In a 60 Minutes interview, Jennelle Stephenson, a 28-year-old woman living in Florida, talks about her life growing up with the disease. She details the pain she endured and the many hospital visits she’s had due to complications from sickle cell. In late 2017, Dr. John Tisdale and his team working with Stephenson created a version of Stephenson’s genes with the mutation for sickle cell fixed. After having her immune system suppressed with chemotherapy, Stephenson was given blood stem cells with the fixed gene through her IV.
Two years after the stem cell therapy, Stephenson’s blood shows no sign of sickle-shaped cells. She can do all of the things she wished she could do while sick, including the simple act of running, which she never takes for granted.
Between 2014 and 2017, seven other patients treated with stem cell therapies for sickle cell anemia, using allogeneic donor cells, showed a 95% or more acceptance for those donor cells in a 16-month follow up.
Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institute of Health in 2000, helped crack the human genome code and says that this stem cell treatment for sickle cell anemia may truly be a cure for the disease.
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A Sightless Student Regains His Vision with Stem Cell Therapy
Ty Everett, a student living in Medford, Oregon, struggled through school as his eyesight deteriorated. Due to the progressive nature of optic nerve hypoplasia, Everett soon could no longer use a computer to help him in school and was forced to use Braille devices to supplement his learning.
In 2009, Everett and his family traveled to China for stem cell treatment. It didn’t take long after the therapy for Everett to start regaining his sight back. First, his peripheral vision returned. Now, ten years after his first treatment, Everett is able to see computer screen again and has been able to continue his studies. He currently works as a software developer, and he credits the stem cell treatment as the reason for his ability to work in the field. His eyesight isn’t 100% perfect, however, but his current visual ability wouldn’t exist without the stem cell therapy he sought out.
Mother Living With Eczema Sees Incredible Improvement with Stem Cells
Kristen Featsent of Cumming, Georgia, grew up living with eczema. For most of her life, the condition was fairly manageable, if not routinely bothersome. Then, in 2013, her eczema flared out of control creating burning, itchy rashes across most of her body. The cause for the flare up? Prescription steroid creams Featsent had been using to ease her eczema pain. The use of steroid creams turned into a topical addiction, and any time she stopped using the cream, her eczema would make her “feel and look like a burn victim.”
Featsent said she turned to stem cell therapy to help with her eczema and has seen remarkable results. Although she doesn’t detail the method through which she was administered stem cells, she states that the stem cell treatment was the control she needed for her condition.
A Step In The Right Direction
For now, stem cell treatments are still a new and fairly untested ground for treatments. Even so, these success stories of people suffering from a variety of illnesses paint a bright picture of the future. These individuals experiencing recovery from their illnesses after stem cell therapy are a sign that stem cell research is heading in the right direction.
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