Parkinson’s drug brings new MS hope
Wednesday 9th October 2013, 6:10PM BST.
A drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease may provide an effective new therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), research suggests.
Early tests on mice show that the drug, benztropine, stimulates the production of nerve-repairing cells.
Scientists hit on the drug after screening 100,000 compounds for their abilitly to trigger the development of cells that rebuild damaged myelin, the protective fatty sheath that surrounds nerve fibres.
MS is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s own defences to attack myelin, giving rise to symptoms ranging from mild tingling sensations to full blown paralysis.
Cells called oligodendrocytes are able to repair myelin, but their numbers decline sharply in patients with MS.
The research, reported in the journal Nature, showed that benztropine effectively causes the stem cell-like precursors of oligodendrocytes to mature into functional cells.
“We’re excited about these results and are now considering how to design an initial clinical trial,” said study leader Dr Luke Lairson, from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, US.
In mice bred to have an MS-like condition, benztropine showed a powerful ability to prevent the disease developing. It was also effective once symptoms emerged, and virtually eliminated relapses.
It complimented existing treatments such as interferon-beta and fingolimod, allowing doses to be dramatically lowered.
However the scientists stressed that benztropine has adverse side effects and is yet to be proven safe for MS patients.
“People shouldn’t start using it off-label for MS,” said Dr Lairson.