Two women plagued with "tin soldier" syndrome, a neurological disease that causes a person to stiffen up and walk like the Tin Man in the "Wizard of Oz" before he's properly oiled, are now in remission after stem cell transplants.
This is the first time such a treatment has caused "long-lasting and complete remission" of stiff person syndrome, the study authors said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, this neurological disorder has similarities to an autoimmune disease and is characterized by muscle spasms that cause a person's torso and limbs to go rigid.
"People with SPS can be too disabled to walk or move, or they are afraid to leave the house because street noises, such as the sound of a horn, can trigger spasms and falls," the NIH wrote of the disorder, noting that the exact cause of it neurologically is still unknown.
This video shows how a person with stiff person syndrome walks:
"Their lives are really affected in ways you can’t imagine," Dr. Harry Atkins with Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, who lead the research, told the Ottawa Citizen about patients with this syndrome.
The hospital's Blood and Marrow Transplant Program restored normal movement to two female patients by first breaking down their immune system and then giving them a transplant of their own stem cells.
One of the women who received the treatment four years after being diagnosed saw her stiff person syndrome disappear within a month. According to the case study, she was back to work and playing sports six months afterward and remained in this condition without any further incidents five years after the transplant.
The second patient had four muscle spasm incidents within a year-and-a-half of the transplant but was symptom-free for more than a year afterward. This patient, identified by the Ottawa Citizen as Tina Ceroni, said the future seemed "bleak" after her diagnosis. She told the newspaper she considers the transplant treatment a miracle.
“Now I feel like the possibilities are endless. I appreciate life so much and everything it has to offer," Ceroni said.
A third patient is currently undergoing the same treatment at the hospital and hopes for a similar result.
Atkins cautioned that the treatment is not yet considered a cure because they don't know how long remission will last.
“We approach these cases very carefully and are always aware that there have just been a few patients treated and followed for a short time,” he said in a statement. "Seeing these two patients return to their normal lives is really every physicians dream.”
(H/T: Science Daily)