SCIENTISTS have given new hope to multiple sclerosis sufferers as they believe they may be have found a way to reverse the damage caused.
In multiple sclerosis, the loss of insulating layers called myelin can lead to the nerve fibres in the brain – that send messages to other part of the body – becoming damaged.
Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge now believe that by activating stem cells, they can repair injury in the central nervous system
They have identified a mechanism essential for regenerating myelin, and have shown how it can be exploited to make the brain’s own stem cells better able to produce new myelin.
This research will help in identifying drugs to encourage myelin repair in MS patients.
Almost 100,000 people in the UK are affected by MS, and several million worldwide.
The disease often targets young people between the ages of 20 and 40.
Professor Charles French-Constant, from the University of Edinburgh’s MS Society Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research, said: “The aim of our research is to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis with the eventual aim of stopping and reversing it.
“This discovery is very exciting as it could potentially pave the way to find drugs that could help repair damage caused to the important layers that protect nerve cells in the brain.”
Professor Robin Franklin, director of the MS Society’s Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair at the University of Cambridge, said: “Therapies that repair damage are the missing link in treating multiple sclerosis.
“In this study we have identified a means by which the brain’s own stem cells can be encouraged to undertake this repair, opening up the possibility of a new regenerative medicine for this devastating disease.”
The study, carried out on rodents, was funded by the MS Society in the UK and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in America.