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Stem cell trials could lead to MS treatment

A global clinical trial will test if stem cells can be safely used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), it was announced yesterday. It will see if cells can slow, stop and even reverse damage to the brain and spinal cord caused by the illness. The results will advance medical knowledge "by years", scientists said.

The £10m trial, involving up to 200 patients around the world, is due to start later this year and will last between three and five years. UK scientists have received £1m in joint funding from the MS Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation.

Paolo Muraro, lead researcher on the study based at 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 at trial sites in London and Edinburgh will harvest stem cells from the bone marrow of 13 trial participants, grow them in the laboratory and then re-inject them into the bloodstream. It is hoped the trials will eventually lead to a proven treatment.