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San Francisco, CA (Apr 15) – The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) is studying the effects the use of statin drugs may have on slowing the progression for MS victims. A research group studying MS patients, noticed a cholesterol-lowering drug, taken in the earliest stages of the disease, has the potential to lower the formation of new brain lesions.
Researchers are hopeful, though cautious. The study group was admittedly small, only 81 people. These individuals received 80 milligrams daily of atovastatin, also known as Lipitor, marketed by Pfizer, Inc.
Considered an auto-immune disease, MS attacks the central nervous system. Nerves, composed of axons or nerve fibers are surrounded by a myelin sheath. When the immune system is under attack, with the result of the onset of multiple sclerosis, scars or lesions in the demyelinated portion of the brain and spinal cord result. Myelin disruption results in damage to nerves transmitting information to nerve cells.
MRIs were used to track the course of the disease and follow the activity of the medication and its affects. Daniel Pelletier, MD., coordinated the MRI portion of the study. “The exciting finding in this study is that reducing new brain MRI lesions should be meaningful for patients since new lesions are reliable correlates of future clinical attacks in MS,” said Pelletier.
The UCSF team is part of a “multi-center trial” with additional participation from the Oregon Health & Science University, The Cleveland Clinic, Virginia Mason MS Center, Washington University School of Medicine John L. Trotter MS Center, Montreal Neurological Institute, Barrow Neurological Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, University of Rochester, The Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center at USC Keck School of Medicine, Yale MS Research Center, Jacobs Neurological Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
More information can be found at the UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Center website.