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Cholesterol drug can help treat MS

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    Cholesterol drug can help treat MS UPI Science News From the Science & Technology Desk Published 3/31/2003 6:05 PM HONOLULU, March 31 (UPI) -- A popular
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2003
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      Cholesterol drug can help treat MS



      UPI Science News
      From the Science & Technology Desk
      Published 3/31/2003 6:05 PM





      HONOLULU, March 31 (UPI) -- A popular cholesterol drug also can be an
      effective
      treatment for the most common form of multiple sclerosis, a study
      released late Monday
      suggests.



      Researchers, led by Dr. Timothy Vollmer, chairman of neurology at the
      Barrow
      Neurological Institute in Phoenix, tested the anti-cholesterol
      medication, Simvastatin,
      one of the widely used statin drugs, on 45 MS patients ages 18 to 55.
      Thirty of these
      patients received 80 milligrams daily of the drug, known by its brand
      name, Zocor.

      Prior to treatment, all patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging
      scans so
      researchers could examine their baseline MS lesions, which form along
      the central
      nervous system leading up to the brain. After treatment, MRI scans
      were conducted
      again.



      In findings to be presented Tuesday at the American Academy of
      Neurology meeting in
      Honolulu, Vollmer and colleagues will report Zocor reduced the number
      of lesions
      significantly -- by 43 percent -- reducing the volume of the lesions
      as well.

      In addition, because no study subjects reported any serious side
      effects, the drug
      appears to be relatively safe.



      Vollmer said the drug also reduced substantially the inflammation
      caused by the lesions
      along the central nervous system -- suggesting cholesterol-fighting
      drugs might have
      untapped potential for other conditions.



      "I was surprised," Vollmer told United Press International. "I
      thought they would have had
      a very modest effect."



      Cholesterol drugs appear to "inhibit a part of the immune system that
      is involved in the
      attack on the brain in MS patients," he explained. "These immune
      cells, once they get
      into the brain, set off a process that leads to further damage."
      Anti-cholesterol
      medications could help "reprogram the immune system" to keep it from
      attacking the
      body, he added.



      Another perk of Zocor is it already has been approved by the U.S.
      Food and Drug
      Administration. "If in three years, these studies are positive,
      theoretically, patients and
      physicians can start using the drugs (to treat MS)," Vollmer said.

      Dr. Ben Thrower, medical director of the multiple sclerosis center at
      the Shepherd Center
      in Atlanta, told UPI that "it's looking very exciting."



      What is so promising about this approach is cholesterol-lowering
      drugs are "not
      suppressing the immune system -- and that's the real key," Thrower
      said.

      However, the dosages required could be higher for MS patients than
      for patients trying to
      reduce cholesterol levels, he said, so "there may be more liver risk"
      with the larger
      doses.

      MS is a degenerative disease affecting more than 250,000 Americans.
      It attacks the
      nerves along the spinal cord and brain, including the myelin, the
      protective coating that
      covers the nerves.



      The latest treatment for MS is a class of drugs called interferons,
      which regulate the
      body's immune system. However, interferons produce significant side
      effects, including
      fatigue, joint pain, headaches and even depression.

      --

      (Reported by Katrina Woznicki, UPI Science News, in Washington)

      Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International



      ~Joyce
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