Treatments have been hit and miss as far as multiple sclerosis (MS) is concerned. And the disease itself is difficult to identify, as it affects its victims differently and can be confused with other diseases. In this study by Purdue University Department of Basic Medical Sciences, its School of Veterinary Medicine, its Center for Paralysis Research and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, further progress has been made in identifying a new cause for the disease, as well as a possible treatment.
Very interestingly, what the researchers discovered as a possible cause of MS is a chemical found in air pollutants, such as tobacco smoke and auto exhaust. It is called acrolein, a powerful substance used in many industries, such as the making of plastics. Acrolein is so harmful, it was used in World War I as a chemical weapon.
Though previous scientists had found links between acrolein and liver damage, the Purdue University team found the first concrete evidence of its link to MS by discovering that the amount of acrolein in mice with MS was 60 percent higher than mice not injected with the disease. Their studies show that acrolein is what damages the myelin sheaths surrounding nerve cells on the spinal cord and elsewhere in the body.
"A" represents the normal structure of nerve fibers and myelin; "B" represents how acrolein is thought to damage myelin and cell membranes; and "C" shows how nerves with damaged myelin cannot properly conduct signals: Purdue University graphic/Michel Schweinsberg
Previous research discovered positive effects of hydralazine, normally used to treat high blood pressure. When administered to mice in the current study, the medication delayed the symptoms of MS and reduced the severity of symptoms.
Neuroscientist and medical doctor Riyi Shi was very promising in his outlook for the future of hydralazine.
"The treatment did not cause any serious side effects in the mice," Shi said.
"The dosage we used for hydralazine in animals is several times lower than the
standard dosing for oral hydralazine in human pediatric patients. Therefore,
considering the effectiveness of hydralazine at binding acrolein at such low
concentrations, we expect that our study will lead to the development of new
neuroprotective therapies for MS that could be rapidly translated into the
Sources: Purdue University News Service via RDMag, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Wikipedia, PubMed Health