Recent stem cell research by Cambridge professors has been hailed as a leap forward in providing future innovations in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
The £1 million research, funded by the UK Stem Cell Foundation and the Multiple Sclerosis Society, has proved groundbreaking in potentially offering drugs to stop or reverse nerve damage caused by the illness.
The research is expected to provide drugs capable of renewing cells in the brain which regenerate myelin; a protective sheath around nerves, which, when stripped away, interferes with the transmission of nerve messages around the body.
The disease, which currently affects around 100,000 young people in the UK, causes symptoms ranging from fatigue, tremors and blindness. Current treatment focuses on physiotherapy and pain relief.
Professor Robin Franklin, a fellow of Pembroke College, commented at the launch of the new initiative that he is “pretty optimistic that in the not too distant future we'll have drugs that will promote regeneration by the brain's own stem cells.”
He has also indicated that this research has potential ramifications upon cancer treatment. “There's one approach to tumour therapy which argues that if you induce a cancer cell to do what a stem cell does, then the cancer cell will become a cell that doesn't divide or commits suicide.”
“The pathways we've identified recently also happen to be the pathways that are targeted for this differentiating tumour control”.
In a press release responding to the development, the MS Society has called the research a “much needed shot in the arm”, in light of the “critical gap between currently available government and private funding and the countless promising research projects in need of financial assistance”.
Dr Doug Brown, the charity’s Biochemical Research Manager, hailed the move as a significant step forward. “We're delighted to announce this partnership that is the first of its kind and look forward to receiving applications for research funding.
“Stem cells are showing real promise in MS, and the sooner we can take the science from the bench to the bedside, the sooner people with MS will get the answers they so desperately need.”