Sharon Porter

At 38 years of age, Mrs. Porter, a once healthy young mother, was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a devastating autoimmune disorder. She started experiencing Reynaud’s disease, tightness of the skin especially in her hands that became swollen, contractured, and ulcerated. The disease aggressively progressed affecting her mobility and quality of life. More seriously, her lungs became affected and pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary fibrosis developed. The conventional treatment for scleroderma is limited to symptom management, which helps to slow the progression of the disease but does not treat the cause.

With the disease rapidly progressing, she found Dr. Richard Burt and the Immunotherapy Department at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. His pioneering and life-saving treatment for autoimmune diseases gave her hope for the first time. His treatment is based on rebuilding the faulty part of her immune system and treating the disease and not just symptom management. Three years ago, Sharon received the treatment of a nonmyeloblative stem cell transplant using her own stem cells.

There was a sudden and dramatic improvement following the transplant, the tide of complications was halted and there has been no further deterioration in her condition. Improvement of lung function and elevated blood pressure once elevated returned to normal. Her mobility has greatly improved and her skin has become less tight. She no longer takes immunosuppressants or steroids and has returned to working full time as a nurse and enjoying a very active family life. Her quality of life has improved to the point that there remain few residual effects from the scleroderma.

Sharon believes her remarkable recovery after treatment is evidence that stem cell transplantation for patients with scleroderma is effective in not just treating the symptoms but also treating the cause of the condition for the first time.

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