August 6, 2003
STEM-CELL research could radically help people with multiple sclerosis within the next six years, genetics pioneer Alan Trounson said in Hobart last night.
Professor Trouson, considered a world leader in stem-cell research, said he was not offering false hope to patients suffering from the incurable disease.
"These are not distant possibilities, they are genuine opportunities that I think will come to pass," he said.
"I don't like to predict a time frame, but I'd say it will be in the next five to six years."
Professor Trounson, who is leading research at the new National Stem Cell Centre, gave a public lecture on trends and developments in stem-cell research at the University of Tasmania's Stanley Burbury Lecture Theatre.
He said an exciting development being explored was the ability of stem cells to enter parts of the body which would be otherwise difficult to get to.
In the case of MS, for example, embryonic stem cells could reach parts of the brain afflicted by the disease.
Professor Trounsen said research on rats had shown remarkable results.
"Mice completely paralysed with MS can go back to full health," he said.
The stem cells worked by entering the patient's blood stream and then entering the brain.
The cells then target the afflicted area and work in two ways - by repopulating the tissue and by mobilising the existing tissue to proliferate.
"Stem cells can actually repair the nerves in the brain," Professor Trounson said.
He said the research could also help with diabetes and cystic fibrosis.
In the case of diabetes, Professor Tounson said it was hoped insulin-producing
cells could be sent to a non-performing pancreas.
Copyright © 2003, Davies Bros