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Drug Used for High Blood Pressure Shows Benefits in Treating MS-like Disease in Mice

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:12pm

Researchers funded in part by the National MS Society have demonstrated that lisinopril – a drug commonly used to lower blood pressure – reversed symptoms in mice with MS-like disease, and stimulated the production of a type of immune cell that is thought to be capable of turning off MS immune attacks. Further research is needed to determine whether this approach will have benefits in people with MS. Michael Platten, MD (University Hospital Heidelberg, Germany), Lawrence Steinman, MD (Stanford University, California) and colleagues report their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (expected to appear in the journal’s early online edition in the week of August 17). This study was funded by the Society, the National Institutes of Health, and other sources.

Background: Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. Angiotensin is a protein that causes blood vessels to constrict, driving up blood pressure. Research suggests it may also be involved in autoimmunity (disorders like MS in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues). At least one previous study had shown that administering an angiotensin inhibitor could prevent the MS-like disease EAE in rats.

The Study: The team first analyzed brain tissue obtained from people with MS and found that proteins from the angiotensin family were more prevalent in areas of MS damage. Next, they administered lisinopril – a drug that inhibits angiotensin and is used to lower blood pressure – to mice with EAE. When the drug was administered before induction of EAE, the disease was prevented. When administered after symptoms began, these symptoms were reversed. Significantly, lisinopril blocked the activity of inflammatory T cells and promoted the activity of “T regs” -- a subset of immune cells that regulate and suppress the immune attack. The team used doses that were comparable to those used in humans with high blood pressure.

Comment: “This is an interesting new lead in the search for ways to turn off the immune attack in MS, using a common and accessible drug,” said John R. Richert, MD, Executive Vice President of the Research & Clinical Programs Department. “But like any experimental treatment that shows success in mice, more research is needed to determine whether this approach will be safe and beneficial for people with MS.”

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