Multiple Sclerosis

A new study has shown promising results for a treatment that would not only alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) but also repair damage to nerves caused by the autoimmune disease.

Current MS treatments work by reducing episode relapses, but don’t reverse or prevent the neurodegeneration that progresses the disease caused by these episodes, thereby only partially preventing the onset and progression of permanent disability in MS patients.

The hormone oestrogen is beneficial in the functioning of the central nervous system and regulating the immune system. Previous studies in mice have discovered the oestrogen receptor chloroindazole (IndCl) is also an effective treatment in reducing the inflammation associated with MS, and additionally in repairing the damage it causes to nerves.

However, the negative side effects found accompanying this treatment, including feminising male mice, increasing the risk of cancers, heart disease and stroke, have necessitated a new approach.

This new study led by researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), School of Medicine builds on the prior study, but using novel versions of IndCl developed in the lab, that have shown to side-step the adverse effects found in the previous research, while maintaining the beneficial effects of the treatment.

A protective material known as myelin that insulates nerve fibres is vital to the normal functioning of the nervous system. This gets worn away in MS patients in a process called demyelination. This causes the nerves to deteriorate, slowing or even stopping nerve impulses and causing neurological problems in the brain and throughout the body.

Results with the new treatment so far in mice have demonstrated significant myelin repair (remyelination) and neuroprotection without any obvious side effects, making this an extremely promising therapeutic development in treatment for multiple sclerosis, as well as other demyelinating diseases.

The treatment has also shown to be effective in reducing the inflammation that causes the damage.  

Approximately 50% of patients with MS experience progressive vision loss. A concurrent study at UCR has shown with early intervention this treatment also has potential to improve optic neuritis in multiple sclerosis patients.

While more work is necessary to explore the effects of various doses given at different stages of the disease, researchers are hopeful that the treatment has the potential to reach the market in the next few years.

Note from NCC.Health: MS affects over 25,000 Australians, with more than 10 Australians diagnosed with the autoimmune condition every week. MS affects more women than men and is also the leading cause of disability in young adults.

As MS manifests in many ways, with symptoms ranging from numbness and tingling in limbs to blindness and paralysis, and with no known cause or cure for multiple sclerosis to date, any new treatments will be welcome to MS patients.

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