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Immunosuppressant vs. Myelin Repair: What is the difference?

Posted Sep 14 2010 8:39pm

Multiple sclerosis is a complicated neurodegenerative disease. To date, no one knows exactly what triggers the onset of MS in seemingly healthy people or, why it affects people in different ways and to varying degrees. But as with most diseases, ideas are hypothesized from all different perspectives to develop a cure or treatment based on what is known about the disease.

So what is known about MS? MS is believed to be an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It is the damage to the myelin that causes the wide-ranging and unpredictable symptoms of MS.

With this knowledge about MS, scientists have taken two clear approaches to investigating MS treatments: First, to attempt to control the body’s immune response so that it no longer attacks the myelin sheath surrounding the body’s nerves. This approach is done using immunosuppressant drugs.

An immunosuppressant drug is a substance that blocks certain factors in the immune system that contributes to the inflammatory response in the human body. For example, when someone receives an organ transplant, they are put on an immunosuppressant so their immune system does not attack the new organ, as a result of an inflammatory response. These drugs are also used to treat severe cases of MS in which they are believed to slow down the progression of the disease.

On the market right now there is a broad range of immunosuppressant drugs that target the body’s autoimmune response. They have been proven to be effective in some patients some of the time but also carry with them side effects that deter some patients from using them.

The second approach to investigating MS treatments is to repair the already damaged myelin to potentially restore lost function. This is the area that the MRF chose to focus its research efforts on because myelin damage is evident in all forms of MS, and because one of the desired effects from an MS treatment would be to restore lost function. But, since myelin repair is a relatively new area of scientific investigation, there are no known treatments at this time. However, we hope this will soon change.

Today, the MRF is the largest research effort in the world with a singular focus on myelin repair and a strategy for moving its discoveries from the lab to the clinic. We believe that myelin repair affords the best possibility for restoring lost function. And that, perhaps in tandem with the currently available immunosuppressant therapies, could slow the disease progression and restore lost function at the same time.

To read more about immunosuppressant drugs, check out an article  here . And to read about myelin repair, feel free to check out the rest of our website, or read this  blog .

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