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MS cure hope as drug reverses paralysis

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS BREAKTHROU­GH

- SUE DUNLEVY

AUSTRALIAN researcher­s have discovered a potential cure for multiple sclerosis that will progress to human trials after it allowed paralysed mice to walk again.

Monash University researcher­s have found the drug DITPA – approved by the US Food and Drug Administra­tion for use in clinical trials to treat another genetic disorder called Allan-Herndon-Dudley Syndrome – can remyelinat­e, or rebuild, cells in the central nervous system.

Demyelinat­ion, or stripping nerve cells of their protective sheath, is a hallmark of MS which causes loss of motor control, muscular spasms, incontinen­ce, weakness, memory loss and problems with thought and planning.

When the drug was used on a mouse model of multiple sclerosis, it tricked the mouse cells into remyelinat­ion and paralysed mice were able to walk again. The research team needs $2 million to get the drug ready for human clinical trials.

MS affects about 2.5 million people worldwide and 25,000 in Australia. The best therapies can only limit relapses in patients with the early stage of the disease and there is no cure. The researcher behind the breakthrou­gh, Dr Steve Petratos, has spent 25 years on MS research and became interested because his grandfathe­r died with the disease.

“There is a significan­t genetic linkage with MS. I suppose I’m a scientist first and foremost, but you are human and there is an emotional aspect to it,” he said.

In MS, oligodendr­ocyte cells are mistakenly targeted by the immune system. They play an important role in protecting nerve fibres, so stopping this damage is central to treating the condition.

When they tested DITPA in a culture of human cells in a dish, Dr Petratos’ team found it stopped oligodendr­ocyte cells from dying. Even better, it prompted stem cells to mature into new healthy oligodendr­ocyte cells.

“It was the regenerati­ve therapy which MS patients have been crying out for,” he said. “By giving mice the drug, we can make them walk again.”

Dr Petratos has since modified DITPA so that it can be effective at just one third of the dose used in the US Defence Department experiment­s on people with heart failure. Many treatments that work in mice fail when tried in humans so more testing is needed before it can enter a clinical trial.

“This is a potential gamechange­r for MS patients in the future as there is only one successful trial to date which has reported effective outcomes of limiting MS progressio­n,” Dr Petratos said.

Adelaide para-equestrian Elizabeth Griffiths, 28, who was diagnosed with MS just after she turned 16, said she had used various medication­s which helped for a while and later stopped working.

“Hearing that there’s a potential cure, it would just be life-changing for me. It’s just so exciting,” Mrs Griffiths said.

“For the people that haven’t had the opportunit­y to feel better or have a drug that’s worked for them, this could be a miracle for them.”

Hearing that there’s a potential cure, it would just be life-changing for me. It’s just so exciting

ELIZABETH GRIFFITHS

 ?? Picture: KERYN STEVENS ?? EXCITING DEVELOPMEN­T: Adelaide para-equestrian Elizabeth Griffiths, who lives with MS, and her horse, Lizzie.
Picture: KERYN STEVENS EXCITING DEVELOPMEN­T: Adelaide para-equestrian Elizabeth Griffiths, who lives with MS, and her horse, Lizzie.

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