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Activating body\'s own stem cells can reverse multiple sclerosis

The neuroscientists and neurologists from the Universities of Cambridge and of Edinburgh have found a way to revert multiple sclerosis by stimulating body's own stem cells to renew the myelin which is lost in the disease. The study on animal models helped to find the way to stimulate brain stem cells to restore the myelin. The research was announced in Nature Neuroscience

Myelin is a white fatty matter that covers nerve fibers and serves as an insulator, thus ensuring nervous impulses conduction. When it is damaged, the nerve cells cannot effectively convey electric signals to the muscles, and functioning of different organs becomes impaired. 

The key mechanism of the disease development is auto-immune reaction against body's own myelin. Thus, the conventional multiple sclerosis treatment is primarily focused on suppressing immune reactions to prevent further myelin destruction. However, it does nothing to restore the lost myelin and damaged functions. 

Brain and spinal cord stem cells of a patient could restore the damage caused by the disease, but in many multiple sclerosis patients these cells are not activated to bring this about. The scientists have found the way to activate them in mice and rats. So-called "RXR pathway" is a key in turning these stem cells into myelin-producing cells. Should the same mechanism be turned on by medicines in humans, the patient's own cells could restore damaged myelin and impaired functions. 

The finding creates opportunities for developing new drugs for multiple sclerosis that could reverse the disease. The authors of the research suppose the potential drugs could be tested within five years and treatments be developed within fifteen years. However, today multiple sclerosis is effectively treated with fetal stem cells.