Myelin repair a reality, says MS Society research

Myelin repair a reality, says MS Society research
05 Dec 2010

Groundbreaking MS Society research has shown that damage to myelin can be reversed using stem cells.

The results come from the Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair and the Edinburgh Centre for Translational Research, two of the Society's major investments. We hope these results lead to clinical trials in people with MS in the next five years and the possibility of treatment within 15 years.

Chief Executive Simon Gillespie said: "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 considering funding it further."

What did the study show?
Researchers looked at ways that the brain's own stem cells repair myelin in people with MS. Using samples from the MS Society's Tissue Bank, they identified a specific type of molecule called RXR-gamma, which appears to be important in promoting myelin repair.

They found that targeting RXR-gamma in laboratory models of MS encouraged the brain's own stem cells to regenerate myelin.

The work was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience and led by Professors Robin Franklin from Cambridge University and Charles ffrench-Constant from the University of Edinburgh.

What does this mean for people with MS?
RXR-gamma is already widely studied in cancer biology and a drug already exists that targets the molecule in cancer. Researchers are now looking at how this might be used as an MS treatment, but this is early work. Read more about the clinical trial process

What happens next?
The next step is working towards setting up clinical trials to establish whether existing treatments will be safe and effective in people with MS. 

Watch a film with Robin Franklin on myelin repair

Read more about stem cells in spring 2010's Research Matters