Multiple sclerosis patient will take treatments in Costa Rica

Multiple sclerosis will have to try harder to get the best of Mary Posta. Thanks to an outpouring of donations in the past 10 months, the 59-year-old Ridgway woman is slated to receive adult stem-cell treatments at a clinic in Costa Rica in the hopes of stalling symptoms of her disease.

“Everything has been falling into place way too easy,” Posta said. “Through the past few months, I’ve gotten letters and phone calls of people saying they’re watching me and want me to keep them updated on what happens.”

Last April, Posta became interested in the prospect of getting stem-cell treatments to treat her disease, secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

While perusing the Web, she found the Institute for Cellular Medicine in San Jose, Costa Rica. It quoted a $30,000 price tag for four weeks of treatments and all the associated living costs. Posta initially dismissed it as being much too expensive to consider.

Posta considered waiting the 10 years generally estimated for when use of adult stem cells will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating patients inside the United States.

But then she became worried that she if she waited, she might have another attack like the one in November 2005 that left her bedridden for months, fighting to walk again.

“I’m 59,” she said. “I just don’t have the time to wait for the U.S. to legalize it.”

She also was concerned about symptoms progressing and losing precious time with her grandchildren. She wondered if the abundance of drugs she takes to manage pain and symptoms was taking a larger toll on her health.

“I talked to four doctors. One of them said, ‘What have you got to lose?’ ” Posta said. “No one is saying that is a cure. But if I get 5 percent improvement, that’s 5 percent more than I have now.”

Posta began talking to everyone she could think of about her plight, including writing letters to celebrities such as Dolly Parton, Oprah and Donald Trump.

Donations from family, friends and complete strangers came rolling in. Some said they donated because she represented hope in the fight against multiple sclerosis, and they wanted to see her succeed.

“Mostly, other MS victims say they’re watching me,” Posta said. “It’s OK. I’m willing to be the guinea pig. I would be doing a lot of damage if I didn’t go for it.”

Thanks to hard-working family members, Posta raised an initial $6,000 this year during an annual open house model train show. A recent anonymous donation of $10,000 gave Posta the final push needed to pay for the procedures. Posta is scheduled to begin the process Feb. 8, and she’ll return home in early March.

Posta was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 1987, and the disease was in remission until the 2005 attack. Posta slowly built her strength up after the attack, walking at first with the help of a walker. Her disease regressed into what’s called secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis, meaning it shifted from a relapsing condition to one which increases in severity of symptoms.

Posta said she is lucky because she can still walk. Multiple sclerosis patients can lose the ability to walk and function normally as the autoimmune condition attacks the body’s central nervous system.

Posta relies on her husband’s arm to get around outside of the home. Multiple sclerosis impeded her speech. She doesn’t generally have pain, though she is slowly losing the use of her right hand.

Posta’s treatments will include the extraction of her own stem cells from fatty tissues. Because the stem cells contain her DNA, there’s no risk of her body rejecting them when they are reinserted. It’s estimated that it can take up to six months to see results, but Posta has heard of multiple sclerosis patients regaining speech in the first month after treatments.

Some research has shown multiple sclerosis patients may have success with adult stem-cell injections as they limit the immune reaction and help the body regenerate the damaged tissue.

According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, three multiple sclerosis patients showed improvement after being treated with stromal vascular fraction cells (the stem cells taken from fatty tissues).

One of the patients, who had frequent seizures, reported the seizures stopped after treatment and that he had improvements in cognition and less trembling in his limbs. The other two patients reported improvements in balance and coordination, the study showed. The study was conducted by Thomas Ichim from Medistem Inc. and Dr. Boris Minev from the Division of Neurosurgery, University of California, San Diego.

According to http://www.stemcell, 73 different diseases have been treated with adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are not to be confused with embryonic stem cells, which are derived from embryos.

Last January, the FDA approved the first-ever embryonic stem cell research trial.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society supports research using all types of stem cells because it “holds great promise, potential and hope for people with MS.”


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