A study has shown it may be possible to reverse the damage caused by multiple sclerosis.
Researchers from Cambridge and Edinburgh universities have found the damage could be repaired by activating stem cells which can fix injuries to the central nervous system.
The scientists believe this research will help in identifying drugs to encourage repair of regenerating insulating layers – known as myelin sheaths – that protect nerve fibres in the brain.
The research could mean a breakthrough for the treatment of MS which affects almost 100,000 people in the UK, often targeting adults aged between 20 and 40.
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.”
Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, of the University of Edinburgh’s MS Society Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research, added: “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.”