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Researchers develop potential new drug treatment for multiple sclerosis

IANS Dec 11, 2023

A small molecule drug that aids in the neuro-protection of cells is effective in treating nerve damage and symptoms in models of multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is a progressive neurological disease that currently has no cure. It is associated with a wide range of debilitating symptoms, including problems with coordination, cognition, muscle weakness and depression.

For unknown reasons, it is more common in northern latitudes and more than twice as common in women. It is known that MS damages myelin, a protective sheath that forms around nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

As the myelin damage is triggered by inflammation in the immune system, up until now all current drug treatments for MS target the immune system.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, showed that the newly synthesised lead compound not only reduced MS-like symptoms, it also may repair the damaged myelin in two different pre-clinical models of MS.

"Our compound had a stunning effect on rescuing myelin and motor function in the lab models, and I hope these effects will translate to the clinic to add to current treatments and bring new hope to patients with MS," said Dr Fang Liu Senior Scientist at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada.

"As with cancer chemotherapy drug cocktails, simultaneous targeting of the MS disease pathway at multiple points can have synergistic effects and result in better outcomes," Liu added.

In this study, CAMH and her team treated MS in a completely different way -- targeting the glutamate system. Liu believes that the evidence of efficacy and tolerability generated in this study for the small molecule drug makes it a good candidate to be developed for human trials.

Iain Greig, Reader in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Aberdeen, is working alongside to turn the molecules identified by Liu into advanced "drug-like" molecules suitable for continued development towards clinical use in patients.

"In all my years as a medicinal chemist, I have never seen a more promising starting point for a drug development project. It has been a huge pleasure to be involved in this programme and I am looking forward to continuing to drive it towards the clinic," he added.

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