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Hopes raised for effectiveness of multiple sclerosis drug

Discovery of the mechanism of a drug being tested for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) has revealed that it's not only more effective than first thought, but might also help in the management of other autoimmune diseases, organ transplant rejection and even cancer.

A research team led by the University of Cincinnati's Bibiana Bielekova, MD, report new insights into the role of the MS drug daclizumab (Zenapax) in the March 27 online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The article will appear in print April 11.

The exact cause of MS is unknown, but one theory is that it may it be triggered by exposure to a viral infection or environmental influences. The disease takes different courses in different people and can go into remission for many years, recurring occasionally or progressing quickly into degeneration of all motor functions that control muscles, strength, vision and balance. The very progressive form of the disease can end in death.

Scientists have long thought that in MS the specific white cells (T-cells) that fight off infection actually turn on the body they are supposed to protect, attacking the myelin sheath that protects the nerves.

"Without the insulating cover, the nerve axons short-circuit, much like a damaged electric cord might," says Dr. Bielekova, director of UC's Waddell Center for Multiple Sclerosis. "Also, many nerve cells (neurons) do not survive without myelin sheath."

It was also believed that since activated T-cells need a growth factor called interleukin 2 for their function, drugs that can block the interaction of interleukin-2 and T-cells could be used to control MS.

Daclizumab is being tested against MS because it has already proved useful in preventing rejection of transplanted organs, "and we thought it works by inhibiting T-cell activation," Bielekova says.

Earlier research by Dr. Bielekova and her group showed that daclizumab benefits MS p
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Contact: Sheryl Hilton
sheryl.hilton@uc.edu
513-558-4561
University of Cincinnati
28-Mar-2006


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