A new technique involving stem cells from human muscle tissue could give new hope to Multiple Sclerosis patients.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have been able to repair nerve injuries in an animal model, suggesting that cell therapy could potentially be used to treat certain nerve-related diseases.
Dr Johnny Huard, senior author of the report, said: "This study indicates that placing adult, human muscle-derived stem cells at the site of peripheral nerve injury can help heal the lesion.
"The stem cells were able to make non-neuronal support cells to promote regeneration of the damaged nerve fiber."
He added that treatments for peripheral nerves, which lie outside of the spinal cord and brain, were usually found to be unsuccessful.
In some cases, they could even lead to more serious issues, such as increased pain, a lack of function and mobility and impaired muscle control.
For this study, human muscle-derived stem/progenitor cells were injected into an defected area they had created in a region that controls the right leg.
After six weeks, the nerves in the mice had fully grown back, while in those that weren't treated, limited generation was noted.
A further six weeks later, the mice were able to keep both of their legs balanced at the same level, while a maze test found that their gate had been restored.
Dr Huard said: "This approach has great potential for not only acute nerve injury, but also conditions of chronic damage, such as diabetic neuropathy and multiple sclerosis."
The research team is now looking at just how this treatment worked and what they can do to make it more effective, as well as potential delivery systems.
It is estimated that around 2.5 million people in the world suffer from multiple sclerosis, while around 100 to 140 out of every 100,000 individuals in England in Wales are affected.
Women are generally diagnosed with the condition more, with approximately three females being told they have MS for every male.
Read about Barchester expertise in offering multiple sclerosis support.