Scientists to search for brain 'repair kit'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

SCIENTISTS are to attempt to locate and activate the brain's own 'repair kit', in a new approach which they hope may reverse disability in multiple sclerosis.

Alastair Compston, Professor of Neurology at Cambridge University, announced the setting up of a pounds 2m multi-disciplinary research team into the disease yesterday, and said there was good evidence that the necessary cells existed in human brains.

'New concepts are needed. We decided that aiming to limit the damage (caused by MS) is a poor ambition. What is needed are strategies that will repair the lesions,' he said.

About 80,000 people in Britain have multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system. Between one-third and half are severely disabled. The condition has defied treatment and cure.

Patchy inflammation occurs in the brain and spinal cord damaging the myelin, the fatty insulation of nerves, which fails to repair itself. This demyelination and scarring is what causes the disabilities.

Studies in rats have shown that cells which ought to develop into myelin should also exist in the adult brain. The Cambridge team will work on ways of activating the cells and finding ways of directing them to damaged areas.

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