Athlete's foot cream gives hope in MS fight
Two drugs used in skin creams for treating athlete's foot and eczema have been shown to reverse multiple sclerosis (MS).
The surprise discovery could pave the way for ground-breaking new therapies for the devastating auto-immune disease.
Scientists found the anti-fungal agent miconazole and the steroid clobetasol both restored movement to mice paralysed by a rodent version of MS.
In tests, they prompted inactive mouse and human stem cells to regenerate myelin, the protective insulation-like coating around nerve fibres that is destroyed by the disease.
"The drugs we identified are able to enhance the regenerative capacity of stem cells in the adult nervous system," said Dr Robert Miller, a member of the US team from Case Western Reserve University.
"This truly represents a paradigm shift in how we think about restoring function to multiple sclerosis patients."
Although both drugs are widely used, a way must be found to use them safely as internal human treatments instead of ointments before clinical trials can be considered.
The researchers are confidant this problem can be solved, but have warned patients not to jump the gun by using the drugs prematurely.
"Off-label use of the current forms of these drugs is more likely to increase other health concerns than alleviate multiple sclerosis symptoms," said lead scientist Prof Paul Tesar.
"We are working tirelessly to ready a safe and effective drug for clinical use."