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Pregnancy hormone estriol shows promise as multiple sclerosis treatment in first human trials

A hormone common in pregnant women shows promise as an easily administered treatment for people with early-stage multiple sclerosis (MS). A new study by UCLA neuroscientists shows for the first time in humans that estriol in oral tablet form can decrease the size and number of brain lesions, and increase protective immune responses in patients with relapsing remitting MS.

The results of the Phase I clinical trial led by Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl, an associate professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study's principal investigator, appear in the October edition of the Annals of Neurology. Previous research has found similar results in pregnant women and animals with early-stage MS.

"I am excited by the prospect of finding an easily administered treatment for MS based on a naturally occurring phenomenon in pregnancy. At present the only approved treatments are anti-inflammatory drugs administered with injections," said Voskuhl, also a research scientist at UCLA's Brain Research and Neuropsychiatric institutes. "Our findings also hold promise for finding new treatments for a host of other autoimmune disorders that improve during pregnancy, such as rheumatoid arthritis."

MS is a chronic disabling disease that affects one in 10,000 people. Symptoms typically appear between age 20 and 30. The progressive neurological disorder is most common among individuals of northern European ancestry and occurs two to three times as often in women than in men. Symptoms range from numbness in the limbs to paralysis to blindness.

Researchers believe the cause is polygenetic, with individuals who contract the disease inheriting a specific combination of genes from both mother and father. Symptoms develop when the immune system becomes overactive and attacks neurons, or brain cells, by stripping away a conductive coating. Once the coating is stripped away, the neurons don't conduct the brain's electrical signals as well. <
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Contact: Dan Page
dpage@support.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
20-Sep-2002


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