A team of brilliant scientists at the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh have announced they've successfully identified a radical new treatment for reversing the damage inflicted upon people who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS is a dreaded neurological disease that afflicts millions.
"Nature Neuroscience" has published the research. In the article the medical team says they've identified "RXR-gamma (retinoic acid receptor gamma)"—a special kind of molecule that has long been suspected of being able to repair damaged myelin.
The university scientists stimulated the RXR-gamma molecule in lab rats. That caused the stem cells in the rats' brains to rebuild the damaged myelin nerve insulator.
A neurological disorder
As the disease progresses it damages nerve fibers in the brain. Those fibers are part of the intricate neural network that transmits information to every part of the body. When MS intensifies the symptoms progress from a mild numbness to a final, incapacitating paralysis of the limbs. Eventually the entire body becomes uncontrollable.
Famous people who suffer from MS include former actress Annette Funicello, former talk show host Montel Williams, and singer Victoria Williams. The late Richard Pryor died from the disease.
The British medical researchers were able to find the exact process in the body that is crucial to replacing damaged myelin sheaths in the central nervous system. These fragile coverings are the nerve system's protective barrier that insulates the tiny fibers that are bundled in the brain. Beyond identifying the neurological mechanism, the team discovered how it can be utilized to activate the body's stem cells and repair the existing damage—including regeneration of the lost sheathing.
During a press conference announcing the major breakthrough for the future treatment of MS sufferers, Professor Robin Franklin, director of the MS Society's Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair 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."
MS Society chief executive Simon Gillespie, lauded the study and the breakthrough. Gillespie's organization, in concert with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the United States, helped fund the giant leap forward. Spokespeople for both organizations believe that the discovery may lead to clinical trials in 5 years or less and an effective treatment by 2025.
"Its hard to put into words how revolutionary this discovery could be and how critical it is to continue research into MS," Gillespie asserted. "For people with MS this is one of the most exciting developments in recent years."
Video: "Talking Research - Stems cells and MS: the hope and hype," Professor Robin Franklin