As Britain continues to agonise over the politics of treatment for multiple sclerosis, more sophisticated approaches to combat the disease have been developed that could leave today's debates over the cost-effectiveness of some licensed drugs far behind. The new approaches could also overcome worries about the ethics of using cannabis as a treatment for the disease.

In the foreseeable future it should be possible to assess an individuals' genetic makeup to target MS therapies for maximum benefit. "We don't know enough yet, but with all the tools becoming available, it is just a matter of time," said Roland Martin, a neuro-immunologist at the US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Eventually, researchers believe they may also be able to exploit the body's own cannabis-like compounds to help treat the symptoms of MS without the unwanted psychological disturbances associated with cannabis.

Multiple sclerosis sufferers in Britain have spent the past...

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