College Student With Multiple Sclerosis Symptom-Free After Stem-Cell Treatment
Monday , February 23, 2009
Edwin McClure, a Virginia Commonwealth University advertising graduate student, says a stem-cell study he participated in appears to have cured his multiple sclerosis symptoms.
McClure started showing symptoms of MS in 2000 when he was a senior in high school.
Although he initially thought it was just a cold, he knew the condition was more serious when his vision began blurring.
"It was like someone turning down the dimmer switch," McClure said.
When his neurologist told him he was showing the symptoms of MS, he was surprised and confused."
It threw me for a loop," McClure said. "This is a disease that typically hits 40-year-old white women and I'm like, 'I'm an 18-year-old black male.' Somebody didn't get the memo."
McClure said being hooked up to an IV for the steroid treatments forced him to confront this sickness. He suffered from extreme fatigue, allergy attacks, heat intolerance and bad balance. McClure said his symptoms made it difficult to spend time with his loved ones.
"It's a huge burden of being a constant burden to those around you," McClure said.
McClure's mother, Bernice McClure, said she was devastated but would not lose hope.
"I was hoping to find whatever was out there that was going to help him long-term," the woman said.
In 2005, Dr. Katarina Bilikova told Bernice McClure about the clinical trial, led by Dr. Richard Burt at Northwestern University.
The trial used the patient's own stem cells to regenerate the immune system and reverse the symptoms of MS. The trial consisted of 21 patients. According to the lead author of the study, this is the first study to show an actual reversal of the disease.
McClure flew to Evanston, Ill., to participate. During the course of the trial, doctors took out McClure's own stem cells and used them to grow more cells. He then was given a course of chemotherapy to wipe out his immune system.
The treatment took nearly a month. McClure called this time "the lock down period." He was not allowed to go anywhere or have any visitors. He continued his undergraduate classes online.
"The hardest part was thinking about all my friends. I was just staying home watching 'A Different World' re-runs," McClure said.
Meanwhile, he was able to keep his disease hidden from his friends back at school. He said he didn't want to tell anyone, for fear of seeming weak. McClure's hair started falling out after four weeks.
He said the one thing he thought about was his high school football coach.
"He always said, 'If your minds are weak, your bodies are weak', " McClure said.
It was this mantra that helped McClure decide to shave off his hair.
After the month was complete, McClure returned to the hospital. His harvested stem cells then were transplanted back into his body.
When his cell count started increasing and McClure's symptoms started getting better, he and his mother knew the trial might have worked. Three years later, McClure said his symptoms have disappeared.
"This is the first study to actually show reversal of disability," Burt told Bloomberg.com on Jan. 30. "Some people had complete disappearance of all symptoms."
The treatment will go through one more trial before it can become an approved treatment for MS. McClure is finishing his second year as a graduate student in advertising at VCU and said if it wasn't for the treatment, he never would have been able to handle the pressures of grad school.
"It opened up the fence that MS had me locked into," Edwin said. Edwin and his mother attribute the success of the treatment to their faith.
"Without having God in our lives, I don't think any one of us would have made it through,"Bernice McClure said.
McClure said, "I would have quit after my second semester."
McClure plans to graduate from the VCU advertising graduate program in May.
This story was filed by UWIRE, which offers reporting from more than 800 colleges and universities worldwide. Read more at www.uwire.com
Monday, February 23, 2009
at 4:32 PM