Monkeys And Medication: The Keys To MS Cure?

- Reported, March 19, 2012


 PORTLAND, OR (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- More than 400,000 Americans are living with multiple sclerosis. It's a chronic, unpredictable disease that attacks the central nervous system. Now, new discoveries could help scientists come up with better treatments for the disease, even prevent its onset.

Whether parachuting, fishing, or enjoying the beach, Susan Dobrof has always pictured herself as an outdoors woman.

"Itís like being in touch with God," Susan told Ivanhoe.

Not even multiple sclerosis could dampen her active lifestyle. Two years after being diagnosed she started law school.

"I realized, you know, youíve been thinking about going to law school for a long time so you got to do it sooner rather than later," Susan said.

But ten years after her diagnosis, Susan began to lose her ability to walk. Eventually, her legal career came to a gridding halt too.

"Lawyers donít need to walk and run in order to practice law but we do have to think," Susan said.

Now Japanese macaques could hold the key to helping people like Susan. Scientists at the Oregon National Primate Center have discovered a new herpes virus in monkeys that causes an MS like disease in macaques. The brain lesions found are a classic indicator of inflammation in people with MS. The discovery could help scientists solve how the disease develops and stop its onset.

"Thatís the ultimate goal," Scott W. Wong, Ph.D., a professor and senior scientist at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon National Primate Research Center said. "Itís a huge finding."

From monkeys to medication, a new drug called Ocrelizumab is also showing promise in treating MS. In preliminary studies, the antibody drug reduced the amount of brain lesions in patients. Findings that could one day help people like Susan stay active.

An active ingredient found in saffron, called crocin, could also help MS patients. Researchers at the University of Alberta studied the ingredient and found it could help protect brain cells from being damaged. It could be a couple of years before crocin is used in MS clinical trials.