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Experimental MS Treatment Offers Hope To Patients

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Getting on the treadmill again, is a big step for Malia Litman.

"I'm doing heel to toe walking," she says proudly as the belt moves underneath her feet.

But to understand what a big victory this is, you need to know Litman's path.

Litman, a top trial attorney in Dallas, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 18 years ago. As time passed, the disease slowly robbed her of her balance, mobility and energy. She says even taking a shower wiped her out. The disease is the most widespread disabling neurological condition in the world.

"You can imagine how contracted my world had become, it that was the level of energy I had," she explains.

After she fell and broke her leg,Litman depended on a wheelchair for weeks. She says expensive MS medicines weren't really working. That's when she started looking for alternative treatments. Her search led her to Dr. Dimitrious Karussis.

"I believe many answers for our diseases and medical problems are hidden inside our body," Dr. Karussis explains.

He's leading experimental stem cell research at Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel, where he harvests a patient's own adult stem cells from their bone marrow, then injects them back into the spinal fluid.

"We are very optimistic for the future because as neurologists we have never seen or believed that it is possible to reverse any disability," Dr. Karussis says.

Within 24 hours of her first treatment, Litman says she did something she had not been able to do in years. She lifted her leg, without using her hands.

"I went back to get in bed, and picked up my leg. I went 'Oh my God', and just started crying."

Litman has now had four treatments. She has reactivated her law license, and is even taking on a case.

"I've got my energy back and I'm doing things I never thought I could do again," she says.

Litman still uses a walker to get around, but can now carefully get on her rowing machine.

She also says her speech is more clear and she's adamant it's not a placebo effect, pointing to baseline tests before and after treatment that show cognitive and fine motor skill improvement.

Hadassah, the Woman Zionist Organization of America shared video on Youtube of an MS patient they say was able to walk again, following treatment.

Dr. Karussis says researchers are collaborating with teams at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard. The treatment is available as a clinical trial. Researchers are working to finish a double blind study to prove its effectiveness. Litman has no doubts.

"For me, I feel like I have my life back. I don't care if I walk with a walker the rest of my life -- though I think I may actually be able to walk again with a couple more treatments."

With her renewed energy, she is raising funds for what she believes will be a revolutionary treatment.

"Be hopeful. We have the future ahead of us. We have a potential cure, but certainly a treatment."

Hadassah researchers are also looking at the treatment's effect on ALS patients.

 Dr. Karussis and his team piloted using the spinal fluid as the delivery system for this stem cell treatment. Hadassah Medical Center is the only hospital conducting these clinical trials, and there are openings.

Closer to home, U.S. researchers have collaborated on HALT-MS, clinical trials that aim to "reboot" an MS patient's immune system by depleting it through chemotherapy and then rebuilding it with stem cell transplantation. The results of the 5 year-long study were published in February.

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