A Maritime man living with multiple sclerosis – commonly known as MS - is heading to the other side of the country to undergo a stem cell procedure, which he hopes will improve his quality of life and slow its progression.

Mark Wile was diagnosed with MS back in 2002; he’s lived with the disease since then, dealing with the heartache and frustration as it sapped his strength and put him in a wheelchair.

Still, the 50-year-old has stubbornly clung to his independence, living with his partner and aided by a volunteer therapist.

A stem cell treatment in Germany nine years ago offered him new hope, at least for a while.

“I was grabbing things like I used to and pulling myself up,” he explains. “I had strength again. Right now, this hand, it’s there for a minute, but then, it’s gone.”

With the disease progressing again, Mark is preparing to cross the country in a race to salvage his quality of life.

There’s little doubt other stem cell treatments have been promising.

A few years ago, a separate, open-ended clinical trial was launched in Ottawa to further study apparent benefits from what’s called Mesenchymal stem cells.

“We’re now in a position to be able to get the cells and get them in a way that’s safe and able to produce them in enough masses that we can start a trial,” explains Dr. Mark Freedman of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in a video posted on YouTube.

Still, officials are quick to note the trial is experimental, and not approved for regular clinical use.  

While embryonic cells have the remarkable ability to morph into virtually any tissue or organ, their use remains controversial.

Scientists have had only limited success in using adult stem cells, even though we’ve known about them for half a century.

The treatment Mark has booked is not part of the clinical trial, but his faith in the process remains unshakable, and his thoughts are with others battling the same disease.

“I just feel bad for people who don’t have the funds to do this,” he says, “because if you’ve got the funds to do these treatments, you have better quality of life, and that’s my thing, that’s what I want to get people. Let’s help these people and get them a little better quality of life.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.


Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that the clinical trial was launched a few years ago, rather than a few months ago, as previously stated. Also, it should be noted that Dr. Mark Freedman’s comments are directly related to the clinical trials and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of other treatments.