By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) graduate student appears to have been cured of multiple sclerosis after participating in a scientific trial that used his own stem cells to regenerate his immune system and reverse the symptoms. Both the student and his mother attribute the success of the procedure to God.
Edwin McClure was an 18 year old high school senior in 2000 when he came down with what he thought was a cold. However, when his vision began blurring, he went to see a neurologist who said he was showing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
“It threw me for a loop,” Edwin told Fox News. “This is a disease that typically hits 40-year-old white women and I’m an 18-year-old black male. Somebody didn’t get the memo.”
Edwin’s mother, Bernice McClure, was also devastated but she refused to give up hope. “I was hoping to find whatever was out there that was going to help him long-term,” she said.
For several years, Edwin suffered from the disease, experiencing extreme fatigue, allergy attacks, heat intolerance and bad balance.
In 2005, Dr. Katarina Bilikova told Bernice McClure about a 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.
The McClures were accepted into the trial and flew to Evanston, Illinois to participate. The procedure involved taking out Edwin’s own stem cells and using them to grow more cells. Meanwhile, he was given a course of chemotherapy to wipe out his immune system, a treatment that took nearly a month.
Edwin called this time “the lock down period.” He was not allowed to go anywhere or have any visitors and had to 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.
He kept his disease hidden from his friends for fear of seeming weak. But when his hair started falling out after four weeks, he knew he couldn’t keep up the pretense. He remembered something a high school football coach would always tell the team, “If your minds are weak, your bodies are weak.” It gave him the inspiration to shave off his hair.
At the end of the month, Edwin returned to the hospital where his harvested stem cells were transplanted back into his body. His cell count started to increase and his symptoms began to get better.
Three years later, Edwin says his symptoms have all but disappeared.
“This is the first study to actually show reversal of disability,” Dr. 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.
Edwin 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.
He and his mother attribute the success of the treatment to their faith. Bernice said: “Without having God in our lives, I don’t think any one of us would have made it through.”
Edwin plans to graduate from the VCU advertising graduate program in May.
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