An antifungal and a corticosteroid already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have shown promise in activating oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) to stimulate myelin-producing cells and repair white matter that is damaged in multiple sclerosis (MS). The study, partially funded by the National Institutes of Health, has been published in Nature.
Present treatments for MS include anti-inflammatory drugs, which can help to prevent episodic relapses but are less effective in preventing long-term disability. Paul J. Tesar, PhD, of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, OH, and colleagues designed a study to evaluate whether FDA-approved drugs with other indications could stimulate OPCs to increase myelination that can improve neurologic disability in individuals with MS. The scientists developed a novel method to quickly test the effects of hundreds of drugs on OPCs; in particular, miconazole (antifungal) and clobetasol (corticosteroid) stimulated mouse and human OPCs to generate myelin-producing cells. Both drugs were effective in activating OPCs in a mouse model, in which nearly all of the animals regained use of their hind limbs.
While additional research is needed before these medications can be tested in clinical trials involving humans, these results could lead to new therapeutic directions for treating MS, the authors conclude.
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