Overactive Bladder Drug May Restore Myelin in Multiple Sclerosis
It appears that a drug currently on the market to treat overactive bladder may help restore myelin in patients with multiple sclerosis. More specifically, the drug promotes remyelination, a natural process that fails to progress properly in people who have MS.
Damage to the protective covering (myelin) surrounding the nerves is called demyelination. This process gets worse as the disease progresses and individuals with multiple sclerosis get older. Various scientific teams around the world have been working on ways to stop demyelination and/or restore the natural remyelination process.
Overactive bladder drug study
At the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, a research team under direction of Fraser J. Sim, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, discovered that a drug called solifenacin may support remyelination. Solifenacin has been shown to promote differentiation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, which are critical for myelin production and remyelination.
The study involved two steps. First, the researchers transplanted human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells into mice who were incapable of producing myelin and then treated some of them with the drug. The authors observed both an increase in cell differentiation and production of myelin in the treated mice.
Then, the researchers conducted an experiment to determine if the observed positive response translated into an improvement in function or behavior. To do this, the authors subjected the mice to sounds and studied their brain wave activity.
According to Sim, the mice who were treated with solifenacin displayed signal speeds that were greater than those in the untreated mice. When there is an insufficient amount of myelin, the signaling slows down, but with the addition of myelin, the signals are faster.
Therefore, Sim concluded that he and his team had found a way to improve human myelination. The next step is a small human trial for which Sim and his team are seeking funding. If solifenacin does prove to be helpful in promoting remyelination, approval for multiple sclerosis could be reached rather quickly since it already has approval from the Food and Drug Administration for another use.
Solifenacin for multiple sclerosis
Solifenacin is one of the prescription medications doctors already prescribe for patients with multiple sclerosis who are experiencing overactive bladder. Previous research has shown that the drug can be effective for this common symptom of MS.
Solifenacin (Vesacare) is in a drug class called antimuscarinics. For treatment of overactive bladder, it works by relaxing the bladder muscles. The most common side effects include blurry vision, constipation, dry mouth, dry eyes, fatigue, heartburn, nausea and vomiting, and stomach pain.
Sim FJ et al. Anti-muscarinic adjunct therapy accelerates functional human oligodendrocyte repair. Journal of Neuroscience2015 Feb 25; 35(8): 3676-88
Van Rey F, Heesakkers J. Solifenacin in multiple sclerosis patients with overactive bladder: a prospective study. Advances in Urology 2011; 834753