Drugs That Stimulate Brain Cell Regeneration Identified

shutterstock_18491590Multiple sclerosis is a disease that is still without a cure. But researchers are continuing to finds other treatment methods in order to help sufferers better manage the disease. Recently, researchers have identified two drugs that may help treat MS by helping damaged brain cells regenerate. The effect was able to reverse the paralysis in a mice model of MS.

Researchers from Case Western Reserve employed a new approach to discovering drugs that can activate human and mouse brain stem cells in the laboratory. The two topical drugs, called miconazole and clobetasol, are used currently to treat skin diseases such as athlete’s foot and eczema are also capable of stimulating and regenerating the damaged brain cells and when reversing paralysis in animal models of MS.

According to Paul Tesar, PhD, the Dr. Donald and Ruth Weber Goodman Professor of Innovative Therapeutics, and associate professor in the Department of Genetics & Genome Sciences at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, “We know that there are stem cells throughout the adult nervous system that are capable of repairing the damage caused by multiple sclerosis, but until now, we had no way to direct them to act. We know that there are stem cells throughout the adult nervous system that are capable of repairing the damage caused by multiple sclerosis, but until now, we had no way to direct them to act.”

The identification of the drugs mentioned was made possible after a breakthrough that Tesar and his team were able to achieve in the laboratory. They were able to develop a new process to develop massive quantities of a special type stem cell called oligodendrocyte progenitor cell or OPC. These stem cells are usually found in the adult brain as well as the spinal cord, making them difficult to study. But with the team able to produce OPS’s in the lab, they can now test different drug formulations in order to induce these types of stem cells to form new myelinating cells.

Armed with this process, the researchers were able to investigate the effects of 727 known drugs on OPC’s. The researchers then selected the most promising medications into different classes. And from there, they were able to identify miconazole and clobetasol and the best performing drugs from their respective classes. Miconazole is primarily used as an over the counter treatment for athlete’s foot. Clobetasol on the other hand is a prescription drug for the treatment of scalp and other skin conditions such as dermatitis. Both have not been used previously for MS treatment. But tests by the researchers revealed that each drug has the ability to stimulate OPC’s into developing into myelinating cells. When the researchers began to use the said drugs to mice models of MS in the lab, they were effective in stimulating native OPC’s to regenerate new myelin.

According to Robert Miller, PhD, a member of the neurosciences faculty at Case Western Reserve and co-author of the said study, “The drugs that we identified are able to enhance the regenerative capacity of stem cells in the adult nervous system. This truly represents a paradigm shift in how we think about restoring function to multiple sclerosis patients.”

Although the drugs were effective in mice models of MS, much still needs to be done before they become actual human treatment for MS. The impact of the drugs can only be known after actual clinical trials are conducted. But the researchers are hopeful that the said treatments show promise when they also administered the drugs on human stem cells. It resulted in a similar response with human OPC’s as was seen in mouse cells.

Once the researchers get more details regarding the effects of the drugs on stem cells, they will then move to modify the said drugs to increase their effectiveness in treating diseases such as Ms in humans. The results of the study are published in the April 20 issue of the online scientific journal Nature.

Source: Case Western Reserve University. (2015, April 20). Drugs stimulate body’s own stem cells to replace the brain cells lost in multiple sclerosis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 7, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150420111357.htm

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