Hope for cure of early stage multiple sclerosis

October 23rd, 2008 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 23 (IANS) Human trials of a new medicine have been found to control multiple sclerosis (MS) and even reverse the damage caused by the disease, a study has revealed for the first time.The medicine, alemtuzumab, will undergo further trials before appearing in the market around five years from now, according to the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Scientists, however, said the medicine works effectively only on patients with early stages of MS where the nerve damage is in the beginning phase. It also has some potentially serious side-effects, which will be examined in future trials.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system marked by numbness, weakness, loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech and bladder control. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks myelin, a key substance that insulates nerves and helps in the transmission of nerve signals.

The study was conducted by a team of neuro-scientists led by Alistair Compston, head of neurology, University of Cambridge.

Alasdair Coles, a member of the study team, said: “It is our view that alemtuzumab offers the most effective treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis described to date. The ability of an MS drug to promote brain repair is unprecedented. We are witnessing a drug which, if given early enough, might effectively stop the advancement of the disease and also restore lost function by promoting repair of damaged brain tissue.”

According to The Times, when people with early-stage MS were treated with alemtuzumab, their condition improved significantly more than those on beta interferon, the best treatment available now.

The drug reduced the number of MS attacks by 74 percent, and the progression of disability by 71 percent, when compared with beta interferon.

Patients on alemtuzumab also showed recovery of brain function, so that they were less disabled at the end of the three-year study than at the beginning, while those on beta interferon continued to decline.

Almost every patient taking alemtuzumab improved, whereas about half of MS patients show no response to beta interferon.

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