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Stem cells may cure multiple sclerosis--study

The investigators noted that when stem cells with a chemical called retinoic acid were injected in the animals, it helped repair the myelin.

In what can be termed as a major breakthrough for patients suffering from the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS), scientists have discovered that the body’s own stem cells can successfully repair the damaged nerves of the central nervous system.

According to researchers, the discovery may pave the way for effective drugs that will slow the progression and reverse some of the symptoms of MS.

Lead author of the study, Professor Robin Franklin, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, stated, "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."

Scientists from Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities have discovered a way of activating stem cells that not only play a vital role in regenerating myelin sheaths that is damaged in MS but also in turning the brain’s own stem cells into making new myelin.

Researchers discover mechanism for repair
MS is an inflammatory disease that damages the myelin sheath that protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system.

It can lead to problems in vision, muscle weakness and decline in thinking and memory.

The natural process by which lost myelin is rebuilt and replaced is blocked in people suffering from MS.

Scientists from Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities have discovered a way of activating stem cells that not only play a vital role in regenerating myelin sheaths that is damaged in MS but also in turning the brain’s own stem cells into making new myelin.

In the study, they used the mechanism on laboratory mice.

The investigators noted that when stem cells with a chemical called retinoic acid were injected in the animals, it helped repair the myelin.

Co-author of the study, Prof Charles Ffrench-Constant, a medical neurologist at the University of Edinburgh, stated, "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."

Clinical trials the next step
The researchers are now working towards the next step of translating the laboratory experiments into clinical trials to determine how safe and effective the treatment might be for humans with MS.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, stated, "For people with MS this is one of the most exciting developments in recent years. It's hard to put into words how revolutionary this discovery could be and how critical it is to continue research into MS.

"We're delighted to have funded the first stage of this work and we're now looking into funding it further."

The study was funded by the MS Society in the UK and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in America.

The research is published in 'Nature Neuroscience.'