Stem cell transplants offer new hope for muscle disease in Hà Nội

July 30, 2021 - 08:02

The Hà Nội-based 108 Military Central Hospital has announced that for the first time, its doctors successfully applied stem cell transplantation to treat a patient with myasthenia gravis - a rare long-term condition that causes muscle weakness.


Nguyễn Thị Vân Anh, the first myasthenia gravis patient in Việt Nam to receive stem cell transplantation, can now walk and climb stairs by herself after being unable to move for 15 years. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — The 108 Military Central Hospital in  Hà Nội has announced that for the first time, its doctors have successfully applied stem cell transplantation to treat a patient with myasthenia gravis, a rare condition that causes weakness of the muscles.

Myasthenia gravis is caused when signals sent between the nerves and the muscles become distorted. An autoimmune disease, it confuses your immune system and makes it believe a part of your own body is foreign and must be removed or disabled. In the case of myasthenia gravis, your immune system targets the acetylcholine receptors that your muscles need in order to contract.

It is characterised by weakness and the rapid fatigue of muscles under voluntary control.

In March, 40-year-old Nguyễn Thị Vân Anh, who has suffered from myasthenia gravis for almost 15 years, underwent a stem cell transplant at the military hospital. 

Vân Anh is one of 40 Myasthenia gravis patients participating in a study on using autologous hematopoietic stem cells (CD34) to treat myasthenia gravis and systemic lupus erythematosus. 

In 2006, after giving birth to a baby boy at the age of 25, Vân Anh’s health began to deteriorate. She would often fall and couldn’t get up without help.

She has had a number of treatments for myasthenia gravis since then but none effectively improved her condition.

She became totally dependent on the care of her family.

After the surgery at the 108 Military Central Hospital in March her condition improved considerably and she was able to walk without an aid which she had not been able to do before. 

She says that after the surgery her pain had been greatly reduced and that she felt “lighter”.

Vân Anh was discharged from the hospital in June. 

Colonel Nguyễn Hoàng Ngọc, deputy director of the hospital said that the success of this first case would pave the way for the process to be applied in clinical practice to treat other patients suffering autoimmune diseases.

Head of the hospital’s Thoracic Surgery Department Mai Văn Viện who is leading the study said that stem cell transplantation had been applied to treat other diseases like cirrhosis, prosthetic joints, stroke and blood cancer.

Although the hospital has used hematopoietic stem cell transplantation before, this was the first time they had been used to treat a myasthenia gravis patient.

Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is one of the most advanced medical techniques in the world that Vietnamese doctors have been able to master and apply successfully.— VNS