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Antioxidant could lead to new treatment for multiple sclerosis

Category: Autoimmune Diseases

More than a dozen years ago, scientists developed the antioxidant MitoQ to fight damage within human cells. Recently, researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University discovered through lab tests that this same drug helped with symptoms of a multiple sclerosis-like disease found in animals.

Published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta Molecular Basis of Disease, the study's team was led by P. Hemachandra Reddy, Ph.D., from the Division of Neuroscience at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center. As part of their study, the scientists had mice contract a disease similar to MS in humans called experimental autoimmune encephalomyeltisis, or EAE. It is a disease of the nervous system in rodents that is commonly studied as an animal model of MS. Afterward, the mice were split into four separate groups based on specific parameters: one group had EAE only, one was administered the antioxidant then given EAE, one was induced with EAE then given MitoQ, and finally, the control group had no disease or treatment.

After two weeks of observation and blood testing, it was discovered that mice treated with MitoQ both before and after being given EAE exhibited signs of increased activity in the neurons of the spinal cord, a location of the brain most commonly affected by MS. It was clear that treatment with the antioxidant drastically improved the quality of health in the mice. These results could lead to a completely new method of treatment for humans living with MS, which affects more than 2 million people around the world.

"The MitoQ also significantly reduced inflammation of the neurons and reduced demyelination. These results are really exciting. This could be a new front in the fight against MS," explained Reddy.

Although there were significant results in their study, human trials are still years away from being conducted. Next, Reddy and his team will be examining how MitoQ protects the brain cells of the mice with EAE.

What is multiple sclerosis?
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system and is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, wherein the immune system actually works against the body and attacks healthy tissue. As a result, MS can cause slurred speech, tremors, memory problems or paralysis.

While there is no cure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved certain medications that impede the progress of MS. The hope is that with continued research such as the study conducted by Reddy and his team of researchers, MS can be more treatable in the near future.

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