Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 14:18 UK

Hopes raised for MS treatment

Professor David Wynick
Professor Wynick set up research into the effects of galanin on MS

Scientists in Bristol claim results from a research project into multiple sclerosis (MS) could lead to treatment to reduce the severity of the disease.

The team carried out tests on mice and found those with higher levels of galanin, a protein within brain nerve cells, were resistant to MS.

Professor David Wraith at the University of Bristol said the results were "extremely promising".

The team said it could be at least 10 years before a drug is developed.

Professor David Wynick, who works on the function of galanin, set up the project with a group of other scientists working on the development of a vaccine for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

He said: "It has been known for some time that galanin plays a protective role in both the central and peripheral nerve systems - when a nerve is injured levels of galanin increase dramatically in an attempt to limit cell death."

The team discovered that mice with high levels of galanin were completely resistant to the MS-like disease, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Transgenic mice that contained no galanin at all developed a more severe form of the disease.

Subsequent tests on human brain tissue affected by MS showed galanin to be specifically increased in MS lesions and shadow plaques, which are often seen in acute MS.

MS is a neurological condition that affects the transfer of messages from the central nervous system to the rest of the body.

It is the most common neurological disorder among young adults, affecting 85,000 people in the UK with 2,500 newly diagnosed each year.

There is no cure for MS, but drugs can be used to reduce the number and severity of relapses, and to reduce the number of new attacks.

Dr Doug Brown, research manager at the MS Society, said: "This is an early study and there's a long way to go before we understand what this means for people with MS, but any insight into how MS might be treated is valuable to researchers.

"This is worth further investigation."

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