New Treatment Strategies For MS Shows Promise In Mice Model

shutterstock_152458178Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered a new treatment strategy that is showing promise so far in mice models of the disease. Unlike current MS treatments, which try to suppress the immune system, the new treatment uses compounds to boost production of progenitor cells that can repair the nerve fibers damaged by MS. The findings of the study are reported online in Nature.

One of the newly discovered compounds being studied for possible MS therapy is a drug called benztropine. So far, the compound is very effective in treating the standard MS model in mice, both on its own or in combination with existing MS therapies. Luke L. Lairson, an assistant professor of Chemistry at TSRI and senior author of the study says, “We’re excited about these results, and are now considering how to design an initial clinical trial.” However, Lairson also cautioned against using the said drug for treating MS, noting that benztropine comes with dose-related side effects. More study is needed to determine the effective but safe dosage for human MS use.

Many treatments for MS today focus on inhibiting the immune system from attacking the nerve cells in the central nervous system. The researchers tried a different approach. They focused in trying to restore the population of progenitor cells called oligodendrocytes. These cells help repair the damaged myelin sheaths in nerve fibers. In principle, these same cells can repair damaged myelin coating in the cells after MS damages them. But in people with the disease, the oligodendrocyte population drops dramatically.

“Oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) are present during progressive phases of MS, but for unknown reasons don’t mature into functional oligodendrocytes,” Lairson added.

The researchers screened a number of diverse compounds that may help induce OPC’s to mature. One of the compounds that showed promise was benztropine. The research team then proceeded to test the compound in mice induced with an autoimmune disease similar to MS in humans. This is the disease model commonly used for testing other MS drugs in mice.

In the tests conducted, benztropine was effective in preventing the autoimmune disease and was also effective in treating it even after several symptoms have come up. This also eliminated the ability of the disease to relapse. While benztropine worked effectively on its own, it also had the remarkable ability to complement existing MS therapies such as the use of interferon-beta and fingolimod.

Aside from conducting the initial clinical trials in the near future, Lairson and his team also aim to find out how benztropine induces OPC maturation and how the drug can be further optimized for this purpose.

Source: ScienceDaily

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