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Cholesterol drug could lead to new therapy for multiple sclerosis

SAN FRANCISCO - While cautioning that their findings still must be evaluated in humans, University of California, San Francisco and Stanford University Medical Center researchers report that the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin (Lipitor) significantly improved, prevented relapses or reversed paralysis in mice with an experimental disease that closely resembles multiple sclerosis.

The study, reported in the November 7 issue of Nature, was conducted in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the standard animal model for multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis causes a variety of symptoms, mostly related to motor control. A primary symptom is temporary, recurring paralysis in the limbs, as occurs in the mice.

The researchers examined the effects of atorvastatin in two models of mouse EAE that may reflect conditions that occur in multiple sclerosis. When atorvastatin was given at the onset of symptoms in a model where mice develop chronic paralysis, which can occur in some forms of later-stage multiple sclerosis, the drug lessened the paralysis. In this same model, when the drug was given during the acute attack, it suppressed paralysis.

When the drug was given to mice with relapsing-remitting disease, the most common form of multiple sclerosis, the results were more dramatic. In mice experiencing their first attack, the drug prevented the animals from progressing to the fully established disease. In animals that had already had an initial attack and were developing the symptoms of a first relapse (second attack), the drug reversed the emerging paralysis.

"The findings are provocative," said the senior author of the study, Scott S. Zamvil, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at University of California, San Francisco. At the same time, he cautioned, "we need to do clinical trials in patients to determine if we see the same positive results."

"We just have to hope that we see some of the same bene
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Contact: Jennifer OBrien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
6-Nov-2002


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