Scientists have revealed that those suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis may experience relief by taking a cholesterol-lowering statin.
Once MS moves into the later stages, there are no convincing treatments available. In the early stages of the condition, sufferers experience relapse-remit stages where the condition worsens and then becomes stables. However, during the later stages, the decline does not ease and sufferers start losing muscular function and ultimately become more disabled.
A trial involving 140 participants who are in the progressive phase of the condition has offered a glimmer of hope of a potential treatment which will slow down the decline rate.
Researchers chose to try statins because of its neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects on the user’s nervous system.
The administration of a high dosage of 80mg of simvastatin was administered during the trials. This is one of the most commonly used anti-cholesterol drugs. Half of the trial group was required to take the statin for a period of two years, whilst the other half were offered a placebo.
The leader of the study, Dr Jeremy Chataway of University College London Hospitals, stated that their main focus in measuring success of the study was to reduce the rate at which the brain atrophies. During progressive MS the brain has been known to shrink by approximately 0.6% annually.
The before and after MRI scans that were taken of the participants who took simvastatin indicated less than the expected shrinkage of the brain. They experienced shrinkage of 0.3% instead of the expected 0.6% a year. This was a reduction of 43% as adjustments were made for the gender and the age of the participants.
Dr Chataway has acknowledged that the MRI scan results may be exciting for scientists, but it may not translate into much improvement in the MS patient’s condition. However, these results indicate that it would be worth the time to conduct a full-scale trial.
The Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society, Dr Susan Kohlhaas, has said that there are no treatments to stop this condition from becoming worse in those who suffer with progressive MS. She further stated that scientists have been trying for many years to find a possible treatment that could help sufferers and they have now finally found one which is extremely exciting news.
She also said that MS sufferers should be encouraged by the results that have been achieved.
Image credit: Gerda