Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a common, disabling neurological disease of young adults. At the British Society for Immunology Annual Congress in Brighton this week, Laurence Harbige of the University of Greenwich and St Thomas' Hospital, London will present work on the effects of fatty acids in experimental models of MS.
Dr Harbige, working with colleagues at St Thomas' Hospital, has found that fatty acids from various plants and fungi can alter the course of the disease in animal models of MS. When fed these fatty acids, in a purified form, rodents with an experimental disease resembling MS did not develop disease.
MS is thought to be due to the body's immune system attacking our own tissue. In MS myelin, an insulating material surrounding nerve cells, is damaged. Dr Harbige and his colleagues think that certain fatty acids work by dampening down the damaging effects of the immune system.
The next stage is to find out whether the treatment will be effective in people with MS. MS patients have already been recruited for a double blind clinical trial to be conducted at St Thomas' Hospital starting early in the New Year.
Although encouraged by the experimental work, Dr Harbige warns against premature excitement over a treatment for people with MS, saying "further rigorous clinical and laboratory research is essential before we can recommend any such treatment for MS."
This research is supported by the Henry Smiths Charity. The Multiple Sclerosis
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Contact: Dr Laurence Harbige
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British Society For Immunology