Multiple sclerosis might be connected to a lack of steroids in the brain, Alberta researchers have found.

MS attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing inflammation and damage that can lead to paralysis and sometimes blindness.

In the September issue of the journal Brain, neurologist Dr. Chris Power of the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton and his colleagues describe a new potential avenue for treating MS. 

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There are some drugs related to neurosteroids that are actively in clinical trials, Dr. Chris Power said. (CBC)

The discovery centres on neurosteroids, which help brain cells to talk, grow and repair themselves.

The findings open up a brain process "that we might be able to direct so that we can prevent damage and maybe even repair the damaged brain," Power said Wednesday.

Brains of people who died with multiple sclerosis showed lower levels of neurosteroids, the researchers found.

The team believes that by replacing neurosteroids, it might be possible to alleviate symptoms or even prompt recovery, based on the results of their test tube and mouse modeling studies.

"We've actually jumped the queue a little bit because there are some drugs related to neurosteroids that are actively in clinical trials," Power said. "This certainly provides fertile ground."

The researchers aren't yet at the point to start a clinical trial to test whether giving neurosteroids actually help people with MS.

The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, and Alberta Innovates — Health Solutions.

With files from CBC's Terry Reith