Breakthrough treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) may be just five years away, an Australian leader in stem cell research said in Christchurch yesterday.
Professor Alan Trounson, director of Australia's main centre for stem cell research at Monash University, was speaking about advances in stem cell therapies.
Speaking at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences open day, Professor Trounson said that animal trials of an MS therapy had proved so successful he believed hospital trials were likely "really soon".
Researchers had found that primitive nerve cells, grown from stem cells in the lab, could reduce symptoms of an MS-type illness when injected into mice.
The cells had been able to pass into the rodent's brain where they matured into myelin-producing cells. Myelin is an important protective coating around nerve cells that is stripped away in MS sufferers, causing messages to become scrambled.
"Using these cells to reverse conditions like MS I think is highly probable in the next five years, perhaps even less," he said.
Multiple sclerosis is not on my normal research watch list, but I thought it interesting that Alan Trounson is giving such an enthusiastic timeline for this work. Unfortunately, it isn't too clear from the articles as to whether the prospective MS therapy relies on adult stem cells or - as for Alan Trounson's other work - uses embryonic stem cells.