An antioxidant developed more than a decade ago has been found to significantly ease symptoms of multiple sclerosis, in experimental research involving laboratory mice.
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University were able to demonstrate that the antioxidant — called MitoQ, which has shown some promise in fighting neurodegenerative diseases — helped reduce symptoms in mice with a multiple sclerosis-like disease.
The discovery could lead to an entirely new way to treat MS, which affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, said the researchers, who published their findings in the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta Molecular Basis of Disease.
"The MitoQ also significantly reduced inflammation of the neurons and reduced demyelination," said lead researcher P. Hemachandra Reddy, an associate scientist in the Division of Neuroscience at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center. "These results are really exciting. This could be a new front in the fight against MS."
MS occurs when the body's immune system attacks the myelin — the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibers of the central nervous system — causing nerve damage, blurred vision, loss of balance, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, and problems with memory and concentration.
But the new research found MitoQ reduced inflammation and increased nerve-cell activity in the spinal cords of mice engineered to have an MS-like condition after just 14 days.
Reddy's team will now move to understand the mechanisms of MitoQ neuroprotection in different regions of the brain, and how MitoQ protects mitochondria within the brain cells.
"It appears that MitoQ enters neuronal mitochondria quickly, scavenges free radicals, reduces oxidative insults produced by elevated inflammation, and maintains or even boosts neuronal energy in affected cells," said Reddy. "The hope has been that MitoQ might help treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Studies evaluating its helpfulness in treating those diseases are ongoing."