Diabetes Drug Shows Promise Treating MS

A drug known for treating type 2 diabetes has also been found to be a promising candidate for use in treating multiple sclerosis. The drug pioglitazone has shown in clinical trials that it has some protective effects on the brains of patients suffering from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

The researchers at the University of Illinois at the Chicago College of Medicine conducted a double blinded clinical trial on MS patients. The trial involved giving the patients either pioglitazone or a placebo. The said patients still continued their normal course of therapy for the duration of the clinical trial.

Initial standard neurological tests were taken along with MRI scans of each patient to determine the brain lesions typically seen in people with MS. The patients underwent evaluation every two months and with their blood samples taken. MRI scans were then taken five months into the clinical trial and another one after a year.

After the one-year trial, results showed that those patients who were taking pioglitazone exhibited significantly less loss of gray matter as compared to those who took the placebo. Of the 21 patients who finished the study, those who took pioglitazone suffered no adverse effects from taking the drug. Furthermore, they found taking the drug, which is administered orally, a relatively easy course.

"This is very encouraging," according to Douglas Feinstein, research professor of anesthesiology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. "Gray matter in the brain is the part that is rich in neurons. These preliminary results suggest that the drug has important effects on neuronal survival."

Feinstein and his lab took interest in a class of drugs called thiazolidinediones, which includes pioglitazone. The said drug was chosen for the clinical trial because of its known anti-inflammatory properties. Early studies showed that pioglitazone reduced the production of toxic chemicals such as cytokines in primary cultures of brain cells. These chemicals are believed to play a role in the development of MS symptoms.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago. "Diabetes Drug Shows Promise Against Multiple Sclerosis." ScienceDaily 28 May 2009. 9 June 2009 .

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