Stem Cells Cure MS, Woman Dances and Walks Down the Aisle at Her Wedding
By Thane Burnett, Toronto Sun, December 24, 2006
Suffering from MS, Jennifer didnít have to fly all the way to China for a medical wonder.
She found her hope at home in Canada, as well as a future that included a wedding.
However, some were less willing to sit back and wait, which was the case with sisters Shannon and Erica.
Because they couldnít get the stem cell procedure in North America, the sisters came to Shenzhen, China, an hour away from Hong Kong to find their answers. In North America, options and doors were closed.
See video of the sisters' treatment.
But that doesn't mean Canada is not taking the amazing promise of the tiny life builders -- stem cells -- for granted. In fact, Ernest who is a Toronto physician, and an Alberta born biophysicist named James, are considered the fathers of the science. Four decades ago it was these men that charted the existence of stem cells.
Since then, many of the key papers on the biological wonders of stem cells have been complied by Canadian researchers.
In fact, the country is attracting some of the top minds in the world due to the new national urgency to map out this remarkable medical revolution.
At this moment, in labs from coast to coast, trials and experiments are underway to scientifically and systematically establish what power the different stem cells hold and how they can best be used.
From the battle over Parkinsonís disease in Halifax to stroke research in Calgary experiments and trials truly reach across the entire country. In Toronto, a neurosurgeon named Charles found that transplanted stem cells can grow into adult-like spinal cord cells in rodents. He is also the doctor who tested the Deering sisters before their trip to China and will retest them when they complete their five stem cell infusions.
But lab mice have not been the limit of Canadian research.
A recently married Ottawa human resources clerk is the most profound living example of stem cell success.
Jennifer is walking proof of the power of stem cell treatment.
Under the watch of Dr. Harry, she is among 14 Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients to be treated with stem cells derived from their own blood.
He and Dr. Mark (neurologist) have discovered a method to take MS patients and collect their stem cells. The MS patients then undergo extensive chemotherapy. Their immune systems are destroyed, and then they are immediately infused with their own purified stem cells.
Jennifer was patient number six out of fourteen, and she has returned to normal life with every single other patient who underwent treatment. However, one patient died as a result of chemotherapy
By the time Jennifer was 27, she had acknowledged the idea that she would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She was diagnosed at age 21.
A year after the extraordinary work and treatment of Dr. Harry and Dr. Mark Ė Jennifer got married.
"I walked down the aisle and danced," she said recently from her office at BAE Systems.
Almost all of the reminders of her MS are now gone -- a disease where the immune system ravages the brain and spinal cord.
All she has left is a shower chair and a tub bar, that now only serves to hang wet clothes.
"I've had to educate people -- when they think of stem cells they think of embryonic stem cells," she explained. "I used my own."
Her disease began to work in reverse following the procedure, as abilites she had formerly lost began to return like new every single day.
Suddenly, she was without a leg brace after being completely incapable of walking. Then later, she began to ignore and forever forget her cane while stepping out the door.
She now seems free of MS at the age of 31 and considers herself cured.
Her hope and belief is that this type of treatment wil be available to everyone very soon, and not just those that can afford a plane ticket to China or get accepted into the limited number of experiments being conducted throughout the world.
"I think this hope is for everyone," she said. "It's just taking time to realize its full potential."