The results are published in the June issue of the journal Annals of Neurology.
Douglas Feinstein, a research associate professor of anesthesiology at UIC, says two antidiabetic drugs called thiazolidinediones, or TZDs, already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of Type 2 diabetes, prevented the development of an animal model of MS in the studies.
Other tests, already under way, are designed to test if the drugs could also be effective in other neurologic diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and stroke, he says.
The drugs prevented the MS-like disease known as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis from occurring in healthy mice and reduced symptoms when given to mice that were already ill. Moreover, the drugs were effective in two different models of the disease, a chronic form in which the mice became ill and remained sick and a model in which the mice developed a relapsing form of the disease, which is similar to the more prevalent form of MS.
The antidiabetic TZDs used in the study were originally developed to increase the body's sensitivity to the low levels of insulin present in Type 2 diabetes. Rather than influencing the amount of insulin in the body, these insulin-sensitizing drugs increase the ability of cells and tissue to take up the correct amount of glucose, Feinstein explains.
However, more recent studies demonstrate that the drugs carry out other actions, he says. The drugs prevent the activation and growth of lymphocytes and reduce the production of inflammatory substances by activated brain cells. He and his colleagues believe this may be the primary way the drugs act to reduce the symptoms of MS in mice.