Feb. 24, 2010
When she was 30, Jennifer Osman was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), a neurological disorder that attacks the peripheral nervous system, progressively weakening and numbing its victim. She began the usual treatment of immunosuppressant therapy. As the disease progressed, Jennifer was at the hospital three or four times a week. As things progressed, she became weaker and nearly paralyzed. Her husband Rick said that she had become so bad that she had no strength in her arms & legs, and he had to carry her to bed and sometimes even had to feed her. They were told that the disease could eventually attack the nerves supporting her lungs and stop her from breathing, killing her by the time she was 40.
Then Jennifer signed up for an adult stem cell study run by Dr. Richard Burt, chief of the Division of Immunotherapy at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Her adult stem cells were collected and she received chemotherapy to knock out the rogue immune cells attacking her nervous system. Shortly after, on April 1, 2005, Jennifer received a transplant of her own adult stem cells and her immune system, now rebooted, began to rebuild itself. The process was slow and grueling, but she has taken no medication for the disease since 2008. Today, almost five years since her transplant, she is nearly symptom-free.
"This is my life, a healthy life. Back to normal."
Rick points out:
"It's really important to us that people know (about the stem cell procedure), because we found out about this from watching TV. If we hadn't seen that broadcast, she probably wouldn't be here today."
The Osmans have a website to tell Jennifer's story and communicate with other CIDP patients. Jennifer is looking forward to updating the site on April 1, five years to the day that she received her adult stem cell transplant.
You can see a video of Amy Daniels (another of Burt's patients) and her story of treatment for scleroderma, as well as other patient stories, at Stem Cell Research Facts.
Dr. Burt has performed the first adult stem cell transplants in the country, and sometimes in the world, for patients with many autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, Type I (juvenile) diabetes, and of course CIDP. Burt said Northwestern has done about 350 of these transplants so far. A number of his clinical trials are currently ongoing, including one for CIDP. Dr. Burt says:
"When I first came up with this idea ... people said, 'Why are you wasting your time?' I ended up following my passion, and it's been fabulous. The amazing thing is, traditional medicine has just kind of come to a stop with these patients. What we've done is we've changed that."
According to Burt, the treatment has come a long way, as Medicare and several insurance companies will now cover it.