Read the latest news from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine, Division of Immunotherapy. The links below take you to articles where you can learn more about our faculty’s latest achievements, awards, and honors.
Treatments involving stem cells have shown promising results in the battle against multiple sclerosis, but FDA approval still awaits.
Two Americans stand out in the race to use stem cell therapy to treat people who have MS.
One is Dr. Richard Burt, chief of the division of medicine-immunotherapy and autoimmune diseases at Northwestern University. He’s been a stem cell therapy advocate for more than 30 years.
Dr. Richard Burt was intereviewed by Al Jazeera on his work with MS. The video is available online.
Curing multiple sclerosis
Thirty years ago a young haematologist called Richard Burt was training at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. He noticed that after leukaemia patients had received a treatment to wipe out their immune systems, they needed to be re-immunised against diseases such as measles and mumps. Although the patients in question had been vaccinated as children, the therapy for their blood cancer had erased this cellular memory. Dr Burt turned to his teacher, William Burns, and ask whether the same might be possible in autoimmune diseases. “I could see a light go on in his eyes. ‘You should try it in multiple sclerosis’ he said.” Thus began decades of painstaking work.
- After taking several medications, and enduring weekly trips to the hospital for treatment, Jaime says she had run out of hope. Then she and her husband found Dr. Richard Burt at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was the country's leader for stem cell transplant for autoimmune diseases. He's treated more than 23 different autoimmune diseases for the last 26 years.
Jaime Russell-Polhemus’ body is trying to kill her.
The 46-year-old Princeton resident is a former police officer who worked for Peoria Heights, School District 150 and the Peoria Park District. She has an autoimmune disease, a condition where the immune system goes haywire and attacks the body’s own tissues. Symptom severity varies among the different autoimmune diseases — for Jaime, who was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome in 2013, the symptoms are progressive and deadly.
The outlook was grim until early this year, when Jaime and her husband, Terry Polhemus, read about a trial at Northwestern University showing promise for people suffering from a variety of autoimmune disorders. The key component in the treatment is stem cells, which could potentially “reprogram” Jaime’s malfunctioning immune system.