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Research Findings Suggest new cause, possible treatment for multiple sclerosis

Posted Nov 24 2010 12:00am

Purdue University    - Nov 23, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have found evidence that an environmental pollutant may play an important role in causing multiple sclerosis and that a hypertension drug might be used to treat the disease.

The toxin acrolein was elevated by about 60 percent in the spinal cord tissues of mice with a disease similar to multiple sclerosis, said Riyi Shi, a medical doctor and a professor of neuroscience and biomedical engineering in Purdue University's Department of Basic Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Paralysis Research and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.
The research results represent the first concrete laboratory evidence for a link between acrolein (pronounced a-KRO-le-an) and multiple sclerosis, he said.
"Only recently have researchers started to understand the details about what acrolein does to the human body," Shi said. "We are studying its effects on the central nervous system, both in trauma and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis."
The compound is an environmental toxin found in air pollutants including tobacco smoke and auto exhaust. Acrolein also is produced within the body after nerve cells are damaged. Previous studies by this research team found that neuronal death caused by acrolein can be prevented by administering the drug hydralazine, an FDA-approved medication used to treat hypertension.The new findings show that hydralazine also delays onset of multiple sclerosis in mice and reduces the severity of symptoms by neutralizing acrolein.
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 IMAGE:  This drawing depicts how the environmental pollutant acrolein may damage nerve insulation called myelin in multiple sclerosis. "A " represents the normal structure of nerve fibers and myelin; "B " represents how... Click here for more information.

"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 clinic."

















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