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Saturday July 30,2011

By Jo Willey, Health Correspondent

A TREATMENT for multiple sclerosis could be available within a few years after the announcement of a major new clinical trial.

The news will give hope to tens of thousands of sufferers whose lives are blighted by the irreversible and debilitating condition.

The trial, due to start later this year, will investigate whether stem cells can be safely used to treat MS by slowing, stopping or even reversing damage caused to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

MS affects 100,000 people in Britain. It causes problems with movement and balance but can also lead to dizziness, memory loss and death.

The disease is caused when the body’s immune system attacks a substance called myelin that covers the nerve fibres, disrupting messages as they are sent around the body. The £10million trial, involving up to 200 patients around the world, will last between three and five years.

Scientists in the UK have received £1million in funding from the MS Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation. Some overseas clinics already claim to cure MS using stem cells. But there is no proof that their very expensive treatment works.


Stem cells hold tremendous potential as a future treatment option.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the MS Society

Paolo Muraro, of Imperial College, London, said: “This is the first time that researchers from around the world have come together to test stem cell therapies in MS in such a large-scale clinical trial.”

Researchers in London and Edinburgh will harvest stem cells from the bone marrow of 13 patients, grow them in the laboratory and then re-inject them into the bloodstream.

The stem cells will make their way to the brain where it is hoped they will repair the damage caused by MS.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the MS Society, said: “Stem cells hold tremendous potential as a future treatment option.”

Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of the UK Stem Cell Foundation, said: “This research will bring much-needed hope to people affected by this devastating condition.”


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