LONDON, May 18 /PRNewswire/ --

The MS Society has today (18 May) called on Gordon Brown to ring-fence funds for stem cell research into multiple sclerosis (MS).

Four years ago the UK Government announced a GBP50million windfall for stem cell science but there has been no evidence of significant UK advances in research into conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

Without a commitment to target funding of UK stem cell trials, the charity has said research into the benefit of stem cells may be at risk of going down a blind alley.

And without evidence of fruitful UK trials into the benefit of stem cells, patients will continue to seek unproven therapies abroad, it warned.

The organisation, which supports the more than 85,000 people with MS, is calling for a specific injection of GBP3m for translational research into regenerative medicine - taking stem cells from the scientist's bench to trials in patients.

This is ahead of an International Stem Cell Consensus meeting on Wednesday convened by the charity to bring world leaders in stem cell research together to gain a consensus view on how best to proceed with clinical testing of stem cells in order to speed up the development of a potential therapy for MS.

UK experts will also brief MPs at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on MS, telling them that without action, British stem cell research is in danger of stalling, to the further detriment of patients in search of effective treatment.

MS Society Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie, said: Unless there's tangible funding of properly regulated clinical trials people with MS will continue to see no option but to try potentially dangerous and unproven therapies abroad.

We want to work with government to make sure that underfunded neurological conditions like MS benefit from intelligent investment and that stem cell research in this country continues to thrive.

Professor Robin Franklin, who is Director of the MS Society's Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, which carries out early stage stem cell research, said stem cell research in the UK needed the full support of the Government.

He added: There is a concern among the medical research community that the lack of adequate levels of targeted funding is contributing toward the UK losing its place at the forefront of stem cell related research initiatives.

This, in turn, is having a detrimental impact on people with MS in this country, by sending out the message that their condition is not being given sufficiently high priority.

Targeted funding for gene therapy, announced in 2003, has reaped rewards for a number of single gene disorders and seen significant research milestones into the congenital disease cystic fibrosis.

Mr Gillespie added: The government has not run shy of prioritising funds for cancer, mental health and heart disease and the MS Society believes it's time it gave a boost to stem cell research into neglected long term conditions such as MS.

Notes to Editors:

Previous model - gene therapy targeted funding

This was targeted funding, Department of Health administered and not through the MRC, as follows:

- GBP2.5 million for gene therapy research for single gene disorders (this went to XSCID at GOSH, the eye trial at Moorfields and a trial in Duchene's Muscular Dystrophy) - GBP4 million for gene therapy vector manufacturing - GBP2.5 million for gene therapy research for cystic fibrosis, which went to consortium led by Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Diary dates

1) All Party Parliamentary Group Meeting - Tuesday 19 May

An opportunity to focus on the marketing and selling of bogus stem cell therapies in the UK and highlight concerns among the medical research community that the lack of adequate levels of funding is contributing towards the UK losing its place at the forefront of stem cell related research initiatives.

Attendees: Paul Burstow (APPG chair) Dr Siddharthan Chandran University of Cambridge Prof Robin Franklin University of Cambridge and Director of the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair Prof Gianvito Martino Institute of Experimental Neurology at the San Raffaele Institute in Milan, Italy Dr Stefano Pluchino Institute of Experimental Neurology at the San Raffaele Institute in Milan, Italy Dr Antonio Ucelli University of Genoa, Italy Prof Alastair Compston University of Cambridge Prof Doug Kerr Johns Hopkins, USA

2) International Stem Cell Consensus Meeting - Wednesday 20 May

- Confirmed countries involved are UK, US, Canada, Italy and France - Meeting will help build on collaborations between key international researchers and will produce two internationally accepted documents: - Guidelines for professionals involved in pre-clinical and clinical trials of stem cell therapies for MS to help ensure consistency between trials, streamlining the potential development of a safe and effective therapies for people with MS; - a public information sheet for people affected by MS to address important issues around stem cells and their potential for MS as well as highlighting the dangers of clinics offering expensive unproven stem cell therapies

3) MS Society Frontiers conference - Thursday 21 and Friday 22 May

World-leading researchers in London to present the latest research in MS.

More here:

The MS Society

- The MS Society ( is the UK's largest charity dedicated to supporting everyone whose life is touched by multiple sclerosis (MS). - We providing respite care, an award-winning freephone helpline (0808-800-8000), specialist MS nurses and fund around 50 vital MS research projects in the UK. - MS is the most common disabling neurological disorder affecting young adults and it is estimated that more than 85,000 people in the UK have MS. - MS is the result of damage to myelin - the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system - which interferes with messages between the brain and the body. - For some people, MS is characterised by periods of relapse and remission while for others it has a progressive pattern. - Symptoms range from loss of sight and mobility, fatigue, depression and cognitive problems. There is no cure.

An ISDN line is available for interviews with experts, case studies and spokespeople. For media enquiries please contact the MS Society Press Office on +44(0)20-8438-0840, or the out of hours duty press officer on +44(0)7909-851401.