A DRUG used to treat cancer could relieve and slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study suggests.
Researchers found that the drug, imatinib, delayed the advance of MS, raising the possibility of new treatments for the debilitating condition.
Scotland is believed to have one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with possible explanations for this including factors such as genetics and lower exposure to vitamin D from sunlight.
The latest study, published in the journal Plos One, was carried out on rats, by researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
MS is caused when white blood cells attack the central nervous system, which is normally protected by a blood-brain barrier that governs what passes through the vascular walls. The inflammation in MS patients makes it easier for immune cells to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
The Swedish researchers looked at whether it was possible to influence the neurological symptoms of MS by sealing the blood-brain barrier.
They gave imatinib to rats that were suffering symptoms similar to humans with MS.
The drug, which is used to treat several types of cancer, has previously been shown to reduce leaking in the blood-brain barrier. This also seemed to be the case in MS.
It is hoped that the findings could be used to create better treatments for patients with MS.
In MS, as the immune system attacks the spinal cord and brain, nerve tissues are damaged which causes visual impairment,
paralysis and other neurological problems.
The disease usually develops between the ages of 20 and 40. In Scotland, an estimated 10,500 people have MS.
Last year, a study found the Orkney islands had the highest rate of MS in the world, adding weight to the idea that sunlight is a factor in causing the illness.
The condition is currently incurable. While treatments exist to help with some symptoms, they can have severe side-effects.