New Multiple Sclerosis Drug May Reverse Damage
Scientists have discovered a new drug for multiple sclerosis that may help reverse the damage to the myelin associated with the disease. So far, study results have been positive and further testing of the new drug is in the pipeline.
An experimental multiple sclerosis drug is being tested to see if it may reverse damage to myelin. Thus far, no other treatments have been able to fix damage that has already occurred in people with MS.
The myelin is a substance that protects the nerves in the central nervous system. Demyelination of the nerves, or destruction of myelin, is the main cause of disability in people with multiple sclerosis.
Previously, animal studies revealed that the drug, which the scientists have called anti-LINGO-1 or BIIBO33, was able to reverse and destruction of the myelin. With that success under their belts, the researchers tested the drug in a phase I trial that included 47 people who had either relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis or secondary progressive MS and 72 healthy individuals without MS.
How the new drug works
Anti-LINGO-1 works by blocking the activity of a protein called LINGO-1. This protein prevents myelination, the process by which a fatty substance (myelin) accumulates around and protects neurons (nerve cells).
Doses of 0.1 to 100 mg/kg or anti-LINGO-1 or placebo were given to both groups of participants. The healthy subjects received either one dose of the drug or placebo while the people with multiple sclerosis were given either placebo or two doses of the drug two weeks apart.
Since this was a phase I trial, the researchers were looking at the safety and tolerability of the drug. They found that:
- Side effects were similar in both groups of participants regardless of whether they received the drug or placebo
- None of the participants experienced any significant changes in their vital signs or other safety tests involving anti-LINGO-1
- When doses of anti-LINGO-1 were 10 mg/kg or greater, the results were highly favorable—they reached 90 percent of the maximum remyelination effect that was seen in the animal studies
What do these results mean for people who have multiple sclerosis? For now, they must wait to see if future clinical trials continue the promising trend seen in the animal and phase I studies. According to one of the study’s authors, Diego Cadavid, MD, of Biogen Idec, the findings thus far mean they can “start phase II studies to see whether this drug can actually repair the lost myelin in humans” and what impact the drug has on “restoring physical and cognitive function and improving disability.”
Tran JQ et al. Randomized phase I trials of the safety/tolerability of anti-LINGO-1 monoclonal antibody BIIB033. Neurology, Neuroimmunology, and Neuroinflammation 2014 Aug 27; 1(2): e18