Breakthrough in the search for new treatments for multiple sclerosis

June 21, 2011, University of Nottingham

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have discovered a molecular mechanism which could bring about the development of new treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) -- a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system.

Dr Bruno Gran, a Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Clinical Neurology in the School of Clinical Sciences, working in collaboration with Professor Paul Moynagh from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, has discovered a synthetic which inhibits the pro-inflammatory signals produced by the immune system in MS. What makes this chemical unique is that at the same time, it stimulates the body to produce , an anti-inflammatory molecule, that is commonly given to patients as an injected drug to treat MS.

Together, these effects cause significant reduction in the severity of an of MS. The researchers have also discovered that cells of the immune system obtained from the blood of people with MS are more sensitive to the effects of this drug than those obtained from people who do not have MS.

Dr Gran said: "Under laboratory conditions we have found a way of encouraging the body to produce its own Interferon-beta. When other experimental substances have been tested in the laboratory to achieve this effect, they usually cause the immune system to produce a mixture of anti-inflammatory as well as pro-inflammatory molecules, typically reducing the overall efficacy. In the case of the compound tested in this study (a synthetic known as R(+)WIN55,212-2), the predominantly anti-inflammatory effects appear promising for further pre-clinical, and hopefully clinical, testing.

With no available cure MS is the focus of intense study for the hundreds of scientists across the world who are working on new treatments for this disabling disease. MS is more common in temperate climates. With around 100,000 people suffering from MS in the UK the country has one of the highest rates of the disease in the world.

Until 20 years ago there was little progress in the search for treatments.

After their first approval in 1993 Beta Interferons still represent one of the first line treatments for relapsing-remitting . These drugs are not a cure but they can reduce the number and severity of relapses. Despite this, more effective, well tolerated therapeutic strategies are needed.

Dr Gran's research continues a line of investigation which his laboratory has carried out for a number of years on the role of endogenous type I interferons in regulating multiple sclerosis inflammation in the .

The cause of MS is still something of a mystery. Numerous factors are thought to contribute, including genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. The latter are thought to include certain viral infections and low levels of vitamin D, linked to poor sun exposure.

These latest findings highlight a new selective mechanism that may be open to exploitation in the development of new therapeutics for the treatment of MS.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Anemia discovery offers new targets to treat fatigue in millions

January 22, 2018
A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The finding sheds light on iron-restricted ...

More surprises about blood development—and a possible lead for making lymphocytes

January 22, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have long been regarded as the granddaddy of all blood cells. After we are born, these multipotent cells give rise to all our cell lineages: lymphoid, myeloid and erythroid cells. Hematologists ...

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ironjustice
not rated yet Jun 21, 2011
One might wonder if there is some connection between acetylcholine and interferon-beta. They have shown marijuana increases acetylcholine.
"Effects of cannabinoids on levels of acetylcholine and choline and on turnover rate of acetylcholine in various regions of the mouse brain."
"Cannabinoids increase ACh and decrease ACh turnover ."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.