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Daily pill 'could stop or even REVERSE multiple sclerosis'


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Daily pill 'could stop or even REVERSE multiple sclerosis'

Source: http://www.dailymail...-sclerosis.html

23 September, 2011

  • Researchers in Canada discover low levels of brain chemicals in sufferers
  • Trials are already underway and could speed the drug's release for general use

Doctors have made an 'exciting' breakthrough that could lead to a new treatment to stop - or even reverse the symptoms - of multiple sclerosis.

Researchers have discovered that people with MS have significantly lower levels of brain chemicals called neuro-steroids.

Neuro-steroids help build brain cells and maintain their function, connecting different areas of activity in the brain.

Scientists and neurologists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada believe that it would be possible to replace the missing chemical with a daily pill that would represent a completely different way of dealing with the disease that affects more than 85,000 people in the UK.

Dr Chris Power announced the discovery in a research paper in the latest issue of Brain.

He said: 'This frankly is an exciting breakthrough and has huge potential. The role of neurosteroids in the brain has been known for some time but no one thought - until now - that they might play a role in MS.'

The link with the disease was made when his team tested the brains of 16 patients from Alberta - which has the highest levels of MS in the world - and discovered that they had significant lower levels of a particular neuro-steroid allopregnanolone compared to a group of patients who had died from other diseases.

Dr Power's team were excited because trials using allopregnanolone - which is derived from cholesterol and is linked to vitamin D - are already underway in epilepsy and depression.

'The chemical is already available which speeds up the process that could eventually get this into humans with MS,' he said.

Researchers are interested in the vitamin D link because it has been established that there are higher levels of MS in Northern areas of the world such as Scotland where reduced levels of the vitamin have been linked to less exposure to sunlight.

When mice with MS were treated with allopregnanolone it had a significant effect, reducing inflammation levels in the brain and repairing nerve fibres.

In MS the myelin sheath around nerves is destroyed by the disease which is triggered by the immune system 'over reacting' and attacking healthy cells rather than invading infections and diseases.

MS in its severest form can cause loss of mobility but the Canadian researchers found that the mice given the steroid were found to have increased levels of mobility over a 30 day period following the start of treatment.

Dr Power said: 'Overall we found that the mice showed a 50 per cent reduction in MS disease severity in the brain.'

At present there a number of drugs that slow the progression of MS but after a period of time many patients 'fail' on the treatments and their disease continues to progress.

Dr Power believes that regular treatment with allopregnanolone - and possibly other neurosteroids halt the disease and can reverse some of the symptoms.

He said: 'We were surprised by our initial discovery that this neurosteroid was present in reduced levels in MS patients and then amazed to discover that when we used it as treatment it had such significant effects.'

Funding for the research came from the Canadian Government and the country's MS Society.

Dr Power is now hoping to get Government or drug funding to start the first stages of human trials with allopregnanolone within the next couple of years.

He said: 'Initially we will be looking that it is safe to take. But to some extent that work has been done because of the trials in other disease areas. Our research on mice showed no toxicity.

'If we overcome that hurdle - which we should then we would be onto stage two trials to establish that it works as a treatment."

'We are talking about it being at least six or seven years away as a treatment but I am optimistic about our chances even though there are a number of hurdles to overcome.'

Multiple Sclerosis is a complex condition which can be difficult to diagnose because it presents in many different forms.

Symptoms can include problems with vision, balance and dizziness, fatigue as well as bladder, speech and swallowing difficulties.

The condition can also affect memory and thinking and impact on a sufferer's emotions.

In severe cases a person with MS will be unable to walk.

Most people will not suffer the same symptoms and they will not suffer all of them at the same time.

MS is usually diagnosed in adults between 20 and 40 years old and is more prevalent in women.

Treatments up until now have included drug, exercise and physiotherapy alongside diet and alternative therapies.

MS is an inflammatory disease which damages the tissue around the brain and the spinal cord, this affects the ability of cells to communicate leaving the body unable to respond to instructions from the brain.

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