Researchers Discover A New Treatment Target For MS

shutterstock_35676970Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system that currently has no cure. People afflicted with this disease experience different symptoms including, numbness, nausea, paralysis, loss of vision as well as impaired balance. While there are treatments available, they all try to slow its progression and diminish the effects of its symptoms. Researchers have recently found a new treatment target that may help delay MS onset as well as its progression.

Researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada have discovered a molecule called the Melanoma Cell Adhesion Molecule of MCAM. These molecules allow the white blood cells to pass through the blood-brain barrier and enter into the central nervous system where the cells cause nerve damage typical in MS. In their report, the researchers indicate the promising results when blocking MCAM in the mouse model of MS during lab tests.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system starts attacking tissue in the central nervous system, particularly the myelin in nerve cells, which acts as the cell’s insulating coating. In MS, two types of the immune system’s white blood cells, the CD4 and the CD8, breaks through the blood – brain barrier, wrecks havoc, and attacks the myelin sheath of the nerve cells. This impairs the ability of the nerve cells to transmit its signals, resulting in the various symptoms that those who suffer from MS may experience.

In their various tests involving lab mice, the researchers discovered that the CD4 and CD8 cells use MCAM as a way to gain entry through the blood-brain barrier and into the central nervous system. The researchers found that by blocking the interaction between MCAM and the protein that it binds to, they can decrease the disease activity. In collaboration with a private company called Prothena, the researchers used a drug called PRX003, which was developed to block MCAM and therefore prevent the white blood cells from going through the blood-brain barrier.

According to Alexandre Prat, a neurosciences professor at the University of Montreal and lead author of the said study, “We observed a decrease of approximately 50% of the disease in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the most widely used animal model of MS. What is especially significant is that we can stop the disease from the first symptoms in addition to having an impact on its progression, which is a first.”

And because of its effectiveness in halting disease activity in mice models of MS, the company is planning clinical trials for its experimental drug in healthy volunteers. The company is also starting a clinical trial aimed for patients affected by psoriasis, another autoimmune disease, by next year. The study findings are published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

Source: Medical News Today


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