Experimental cancer drugs now being studied by scientists may yield promising treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS), it was revealed yesterday.
The drugs target biochemical pathways involved in the development of both tumours and tissue-building stem cells.
A key area of MS research is currently focusing on similar processes in the brain.
Combining work on cancer growth and stem cells could lead to new ways to stop or even reverse the nerve damage caused by MS, experts believe.
Professor Robin Franklin, a leading stem cell scientist from Cambridge University, said: “I'm pretty optimistic that in the not too distant future we'll have drugs that will promote regeneration by the brain's own stem cells.”
Prof Franklin was speaking at the launch of a new initiative to speed up stem cell research aimed at tackling MS.
Two charities, the MS Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF) have joined forces to provide a £1m pot of research funding for stem cell scientists.
MS occurs when the insulating myelin sheath that coats nerve fibres is stripped away.
As a result nerve messages are not transmitted properly and the nerve fibre itself can deteriorate.
The auto-immune disease affects around 100,000 people in the UK, causing symptoms ranging from mild tingling sensations to severe paralysis and blindness.
Stem cell scientists are working on ways to renew special cells in the brain called oligodendrocytes that regenerate myelin.