Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated disease that may be amenable to high-dose immunosuppression with peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (SCT) in selected patients. Five MS patients (all women, ages 39-47 years) received granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) for stem cell mobilization, CD34 cell selection for T-cell depletion, a preparatory regimen of busulfan (1 mg/kg x 16 doses) and cyclophosphamide (120 mg/kg), and antithymocyte globulin (10 mg/kg x 3 doses) at the time of stem cell infusion. Days required to recover absolute neutrophil count >500 were 12 to 14 and platelet count >20,000 were 17 to 58. Posttransplantation infectious complications in the first year after SCT occurred in 3 of 5 patients, and 1 patient died at day 22 after SCT from influenza A pneumonia. Neuropathologic study in this patient showed demyelinating plaques with surrounding macrophages but only rare T cells. In 2 patients, MS flared transiently with G-CSF. Magnetic resonance imaging gadolinium enhancement was present in 3 of 5 patients before transplantation and 0 of 4 after SCT. There were cerebrospinal fluid oligoclonal bands at 1 year after SCT, similar to the pretransplantation assays. Sustained suppression of peripheral blood mononuclear cell proliferative responses to myelin antigens occurred after SCT, but new responses to some myelin peptide fragments also developed after SCT. In 1 patient, enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays done 9 months after SCT showed a predominant T helper 2 (Th2) cytokine pattern. Neurological progression of 1 point on the extended disability status scale was seen in 1 patient 17 months after SCT. Another patient who was neurologically stable died abruptly 19 months after SCT from overwhelming S. pneumoniae sepsis. The remaining patients have had stable MS (follow-up, 18 and 30 months). In summary, our experience confirms the high-risk nature of this approach. Further studies and longer follow-up would be needed to determine the significance of new lymphocyte proliferative responses after SCT and the overall effect of this treatment on the natural history of MS.