A new drug that could help combat the degenerative condition motor neurone disease (MND) is being trialled in Scotland - the first test of its kind for more than 20 years.
Campaigners against the disease hailed the MIROCALS clinical trial - which is taking place in the UK and France - as an “historic moment”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the news, saying it could be a “major step towards the goal of a cure for this devastating disease”.
MND patients in Scotland are now being recruited to take part in the research, which involves the use of a drug already used to treat some some kinds of cancer.
As part of the trial, patients with ALS - which is the most common form of MND - will be given Interleukin-2 to see if it has any impact on the speed at which the disease progresses.
The trial comes after the charity MND Scotland committed more than £1.5 million for drug trials, with the MIROCALS (Modifying Immune Response and Outcomes in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) project the first investment as a result.
Professor Nigel Leigh, chief trial investigator for MIROCALS, said: “It is fantastic to have Scotland on board with this trial.
“This will be a tremendous help in reaching our recruitment target faster and thus being able to complete the whole study as soon as possible.
“Our main goal is to find a new treatment to slow down the progression of ALS, but this project will also deliver many new insights into the disease and make a major contribution to improving future trials in ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders.”
Consultant neurologist Dr George Gorrie at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow will be leading the trial in Scotland.
He described the work as being “an important first step in providing patients with MND the opportunity to take part in therapeutic studies in Scotland”.
While the study will be based in Glasgow, he encouraged MND patients from across Scotland who meet the criteria to register an interest in taking part.
He added: “Enabling patients in Scotland to take part in clinical research is key to advancing the development of effective treatments against this terrible disease.”
Lawrence Cowan, chair of MND Scotland and friend of the late MND campaigner Gordon Aikman, said: “Thanks to everyone getting behind MND Scotland, we are now able to bring the first clinical trial to this country in 20 years.
“Gordon and I always talked about bringing clinical trials here. I wish so much that he was still with us to see it happen.”
“I want us to bring more trials here. That’s why MND Scotland has created a ‘time for trials fund’ which will invest over £1.5 million to help deliver our ambition of bringing more drug trials to Scotland. “
Ms Sturgeon said: “Research and clinical trials are an essential part of work to develop effective new treatments for motor neurone disease and the Scottish Government has recently provided significant support towards a range of research work.
“We want to ensure that people living with MND have access to the best possible care and support across the country.
“That is why I am pleased that patients in Scotland will now be able to access this trial which I hope can be a major step towards the goal of a cure for this devastating disease.”
Former Scotland rugby internationalist Doddie Weir revealed last year he is suffering from the condition.