Studies taking place on cancer drugs could also lead to possible new ways of treating multiple sclerosis (MS), according to experts.
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The drugs focus on biological pathways, which play a part in the formation of of tumours and tissue-building stem cells but are also a key part of research into MS treatment.
Combining work on cancer growth and stem cells could lead to new ways to prevent or even reverse the nerve damage caused by MS.
Speaking at the launch of a new initiative to speed up stem cell research aimed at tackling MS, Professor Robin Franklin, 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.”
Two charities, the MS Society and the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF) have joined forces to provide £1m funding for stem cell scientists.
“There’s one approach to tumour therapy which argues that if you induce a cancer cell to do what a stem cell does, then the cancer cell will become a cell that doesn’t divide or commits suicide.
“This strategy of differentiating therapy aims at finding pathways that will make a cell differentiate, and that’s precisely what we’re trying to achieve in regenerative medicine.
“The pathways we’ve identified recently also happen to be the pathways that are targeted for this differentiating tumour control,” he said.