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University of Regina researchers test potential MS treatment

While some treatments for multiple sclerosis have provided patients with some comfort over the years, scientists have yet to find a long-term solution.

Now, University of Regina researchers say they’ve seen some early, promising results in what they hope could one day be a cure for MS.

READ MORE: Multiple sclerosis in Canada: Understanding why MS rates are the highest here

They’re comparing it to the Trojan Horse – a new drug that preys on destructive cells that cause multiple sclerosis.

“It’s giving the body exactly what these mutant cells are looking for, but attaching a little bomb on it,” associate professor Josef Buttigieg explained. “When those defective cells pick up that protein, they self-destruct and commit suicide. You remove those cells, you keep your immune system whole. It’s a targeted approach.”

The autoimmune disease attacks myelin, the protective sheath that covers the nerves. The damage causes inflammation with symptoms ranging from vision problems to paralysis.

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With an estimated one in 385 Canadians living with MS, Canada has one of the highest rates of the illness in the world- and researchers describe Saskatchewan as a hotbed.

In the midst of the second trial of a potential cure at the U of R, tests on mice have been extremely promising.

“We’ve actually seen significant improvement in the mice both physiologically- they were able to stand up and move again from being completely paralyzed, and we’ve also seen it on a cell level,” lab technician and study lead Anastasye Kisheev said.

The researchers are still trying to find out the best way to administer the solution, what dose is most effective and whether repeated doses would be needed down the road.

Few treatments for MS currently exist. Most provide only short-term results, and some ministrations like liberation therapy have been thoroughly debunked by peer review.

READ MORE: Controversial ‘liberation therapy’ treatment not effective in MS patients: Canadian study

“Either we do something to the whole immune system and knock it out, at which point you’re now susceptible to other diseases, or make life comfortable,” Buttigieg noted. “That’s basically what it comes down to.”

The group says this drug is different from the few treatments that currently exist because it takes such a targeted approach.

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“They treat the symptoms rather than the cause,” Kisheev added. “I think our approach is more about eradicating the cause of the disease rather than just making the individual feel better about the symptoms. Basically, we’re eliminating those impaired disease cells from the system and giving it an opportunity to restore itself.”

It will likely still be a few years until they can test on human subjects, but the group is confident they’re on to something potentially life-changing- if funding continues.

“In the 17 years, I’ve been doing this research, to have an animal project that works that quickly and easily is pretty rare,” Buttigieg explained.

“I think there’s a bright future for this.”