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MS damage 'could be reversed'

6th December 2010

Activating stem cells that can repair injuries in the central nervous system could be a way of reversing the damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), new research has suggested.

A study carried out by the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh discovered a mechanism that causes regeneration in the myelin sheath - the insulating layer that protects the brain's nerve fibres.

MS is caused by damage to myelin, which leads to interference between the messages sent by the brain to other parts of the body and results in a wide range of symptoms, including cognitive problems, muscles spasms and speech difficulties.

The condition is the most common disabling neurological illness affecting young adults in the UK, with around 100,000 thought to suffer from it.

Research by the universities showed that this process can be manipulated to make the brain regenerate new myelin and has created the possibility that innovative drugs could be developed to help MS patients.

Professor Robin Franklin, director of the MS Society's Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair at the University of Cambridge, commented: '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.'
 

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