Multiple Sclerosis: Other Treatments Under Study

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Multiple Sclerosis: Other Treatments Under Study

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Other medicines or treatment methods being studied for use in treating multiple sclerosis (MS) include:

  • Myelin look-alikes. The success of glatiramer (Copaxone), which was designed to resemble natural myelin protein, has led to more research in this area. So far, no other myelin look-alike has shown as much promise as glatiramer.
  • Myelin protectors. Ways to repair and restore damaged myelin and nerve fibres are being studied. Researchers are trying to identify ways to stop the immune system from damaging tissue in the first place.
  • Monoclonal antibodies that can be made to target the specific cells in the immune system that are attacking the myelin coating of the nerves. They could be effective while avoiding the widespread effects of current medicines, which tend to suppress the entire immune system.
  • Cytokines, which are naturally occurring body chemicals that control the response of the immune system.
  • Female hormones. Studies are under way to find out whether estriol (a form of estrogen) can alter the immune system to keep it from attacking myelin. A connection is suspected between high levels of this hormone, which rise during pregnancy, and an alteration of the immune system to make it less likely to attack tissue, since MS symptoms getting worse during pregnancy is rare.
  • Aminopyridines, which appear to improve nerve function in areas of demyelination. In early trials of one form of MS, there was mild to marked benefit with aminopyridine treatment, but the effect lasted only a few hours.
  • Statins, which are used to reduce cholesterol. Earlier studies showed that statins (such as simvastatin or lovastatin) may reduce the activity of the immune system that causes inflammation and possibly tissue damage in MS. But other studies have shown increased disease activity when statins are used. At this time, statins are not recommended for treating MS.
  • Bone marrow transplantation. This is a very new area of research in MS treatment. It is unclear whether bone marrow transplantation is of benefit or harm to people who have MS.

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
Last Revised April 15, 2010

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