Chronic Pain Drug Shows Promise, Halts MS Progression In Mice

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have discovered that a type of drug known originally made to treat chronic pain may someday be used to treat and possibly reverse the effect of multiple sclerosis. Researchers at the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at CU-Boulder, headed by Distinguished Professor Linda Watkins used a single injection of a drug compound called ATL313 to halt the progression of paralysis caused by MS in mice foe weeks as a time.

The compound ATL313 is an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat chronic pain. The fact that the same drug may be used to treat and even reverse the effects of MS. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks myelin, the protective sheath covering the nerves in the spinal cord and the brain. The myelin gradually develops lesions and scars that may significantly affect the ability of neurons to send signals to the brain and may lead to permanent neurological problems.

“What happens now with MS drugs is they slow or stop the progression of MS, but they don’t treat it,” Watkins added. “They don’t take people back to normal because the lesions caused by MS don’t heal.”

The UC-Boulder researchers may further be using brain and spinal cord imaging technology in order to determine whether the myelin lesions are being healed in mice who were injected with ATL313. If found to be so, then the said treatment may become a major breakthrough in how doctors may treat the MS symptoms.

The results were quite surprising for the researchers since they initially conducted the study to determine the drugs potential in treating MS associated pain which affects 70 to 80 percent of MS patients. Their initial thought was that this class of compounds would calm down the glial cells in the spinal cord since their activation is related to the cause of pain.

Glial cells are known primarily as housekeeper cells that clean up debris in the nervous system as well as provide support for neurons. But these cells are also known to play a role in pain enhancement. The researchers have discovered that ATL313 seems to reset the glial cells from its activated and excited state into a more calmer and anti-inflammatory condition that may encourage the healing of MS lesions.


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