For the first time, researchers report that a drug has shown it is capable of reducing — or even reversing — many of the disabilities caused by multiple sclerosis.
The study found that the earlier, in the progression of the disease, the drug is given, the better chances it has of reversing the effects of the disease.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge believe the drug alemtuzumab, used to treat leukemia, could also prevent patients suffering further attacks of the disease.
Neurologists gave the drug to 200 patients in the early stages of relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form of the disease.
They found it was significantly better than the current treatment interferon, reducing the number of attacks by an additional 74 percent.
More than half of the participants had some improvement in their disability during the three-year study.
Consultant neurologist Dr. Alasdair Coles said the drug has huge potential.
"Previously everyone had imagined that the disabilities that build up in MS were fixed and the best a drug could do is prevent them getting worse," he said.
"However, if this drug is given early on in the disease we have shown the disability can be reversed," he added. "In some way the brain can repair itself."