Touching Lives - October 2009
Natural healing: how the body repairs damaged nerve fibres
Investigations into natural healing processes that can repair damaged nerve fibres could lead to new treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy and some inherited diseases of childhood.
Normal functioning of the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, depends crucially on a substance called myelin, which forms an insulating sleeve around nerve fibres. We need myelin to feel, move, talk, see and think properly, for example.
In several conditions, including MS, cerebral palsy and some inherited diseases of childhood, myelin can become damaged or does not form properly.
Sufferers can experience a wide range of potentially devastating disabilities – both physical and mental – including vision loss, difficulties walking, tremors, extreme fatigue, and even difficulties breathing or swallowing.
Researchers from Cambridge, led by Professor Robin Franklin and Dr Ragnhildur Karadottir, are investigating the natural healing processes that can repair damaged myelin. They are studying the actions of special stem cells in the brain – how the cells detect and repair damage to myelin, and why these processes sometimes go wrong.
The researchers’ findings could prove vital to the longer-term goal of developing the first-ever treatments that can repair damaged myelin and so free people from disability.
Thank you to The Henry Smith Charity and The Andrew Winckler Tribute Fund for part-funding this project.