Eric Thomson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four years ago and confined to a wheelchair. But he is now able to walk again after stem cell therapy

After slowly succumbing to multiple sclerosis, Eric Thomson feared he would never walk again.

Since he was diagnosed four years ago, Mr Thomson’s condition slowly deteriorated and he could no longer use his right hand or his legs. 

Confined to a wheelchair, the father-of-five thought he would never play with his children again.

As the NHS could do no more for him, his family raised £40,000 to go to a clinic in Mexico for stem cell theraoy he hoped would slow the progression of the disease.

But – to his utter amazement – within days he was able to rise from his wheelchair and walk. 

Mr Thomson, from Hartlepool, County Durham, said: ‘I wasn’t expecting this level of success – if it just stopped the progression that would have been enough.

‘I knew it could take up to two years before there may be any results, so to get that result so quickly has been amazing.

He continued: ‘I just hope that somebody else with MS hears my story and decides to go for the treatment.

‘People really need to know about this treatment as there is nothing in this country for it at all.

‘The downside is the cost, but you can’t put a price on a life.

‘I am absolutely delighted with the results and now say that I used to have MS.’

Mr Thomson had been left unable to carry out basic tasks such as washing himself, making a cup of tea and cutting up his own food.

Told there was nothing NHS doctors could do to cure him, he read about a treatment called Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) online.

Stem cells are different from most cells in the body as they have not yet developed to carry out a particular function.

Often referred to as the body’s ‘building blocks’, they have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. 

In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing without limit to replenish other cells as they die out.  

During HSCT, stem cells are collected from the blood and then, after chemotherapy to wipe out harmful cells in the immune system, re-entered to ‘re-boot’ it.

It is believed the treatment may be able to slow the progression of MS, repair existing damage or replace faulty parts of the immune system or nervous system – although there is no definitive clinical evidence for this yet.

HSCT is not usually offered on the NHS but the therapy is being trialled in the UK, according to the Multiple Sclerosis society.

His family raised £38,650 so he could travel to the Riaz Clinic, Mexico, for the treatment.

Mr Thomson travelled there on June 19 with his wife Joanne where he underwent a number of tests to ensure he was fit enough for the operation.

He hoped it would slow the progression of his Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, but within a week he was able to stand up.

Just under a month later, on July 17, he flew back to the UK. 

‘I am living proof it works,’ Mr Thomson says of the therapy, which is not currently available on the NHS

His family raised £40,000 so he could travel to Mexico for a specialist type of stem cell therapy. To his amazement he was able to walk within days. He is pictured now he has returned to the UK


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system.

In MS, the coating around nerve fibres (called myelin) is damaged, causing a range of symptoms.

Stem cell therapy is a largely experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) and is being tested in clinical trials.

A type of stem cell therapy, called autologous haemopoietic stem cell transplantation (abbreviated to AHSCT, ASCT or HSCT) has been most extensively studied. 

AHSCT uses high doses of chemotherapy to wipe out harmful cells in the immune system so is more intensive and higher risk than most other treatments for MS. 

The immune system is then rebuilt using stem cells collected from the blood before chemotherapy. 

The idea is to reboot the immune system so that it no longer attacks the brain and spinal cord to cause further damage.

So far, only a limited number of small scale clinical trials have taken place but early results are encouraging and understanding of how best to treat people with stem cells is improving. 

More clinical trials are needed to work out which types of cells and which route of delivery would be most effective – and how different types and stages of MS disease can be targeted.

Source: Multiple Sclerosis Trust 

Mr Thomson said: ‘At the end of the treatment I had to have a Rituximab infusion which acts as a booster for the stem cells.

‘I am due to have another five of these infusions which will act as maintenance for the transplant and I am hoping the NHS will fund it, otherwise we have to raise another £5,000.’

Over the next few weeks he plans to undergo physiotherapy, followed by gym sessions as he attempts to rebuild his strength.

He said: ‘I am taking it one day at a time, but it is great to know I am getting my independence back.

‘I would say to other people that the earlier you go, the better effect the treatment has.

‘I was diagnosed in 2011 and believe that if I had gone for the treatment straight away I would never have had to stop working.

‘I am living proof it works.’

His wife, Joanne, added: ”It is only the beginning of a long journey, but we are delighted with the results so far and can’t thank everyone enough for helping to raise the funds to send Eric for the treatment.

‘We will always be indebted to them. They have given him his life back.’

Mr and Mrs Thomson are now fundraisinG  to help other MS suffers pay to go and have the stem cell treatment abroad.

Commenting on his story, Dr Sorrel Bickley, head of biomedical research at the MS Society, said: ‘It’s clear that for Eric Thomson HSCT has had a life changing impact. 

‘This type of stem cell transplantation is a rapidly evolving area of research and it holds a lot of hope for people with certain types of MS.

‘This is an aggressive procedure that comes with substantial risks, requires specialist aftercare and should be carried out at an accredited centre. 

‘That can make travelling abroad for the treatment a challenging and personal decision.

‘HSCT is available on the NHS at a small number of centres for people who meet specific criteria. 

‘We’d encourage anyone considering it to speak to their neurologist about the risks and benefits for them.’

‘I am living proof it works,’ Mr Thomson says of the therapy, which is not currently available on the NHS