Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have developed a substance that inhibits the progress of multiple sclerosis (MS) in an animal model. The agent, a novel calpain inhibitor, can be administered orally.
Calpains are a family of proteolytic enzymes naturally found in the human body. Inappropriate activation of calpain is associated with a number of neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases such as MS. It is known to destroy the myelin sheath that coats and protects the nerves.
In a paper published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology, SUNY Downstate and Maimonides Medical Center researchers described the use of the calpain inhibitor for the treatment of a mouse model of MS. Whether administered by injection or by mouth, the inhibitor produced an almost complete cessation of the disease's progress.
The calpain inhibitor, developed at Downstate, was shown to reduce clinical illness signs and prevent demyelination and inflammatory infiltration in a dose- and time-dependant manner, and holds promise in treating both the acute and chronic phases of MS. The inhibitor may also prove beneficial for treating other degenerative illnesses, such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's disease.
The research was conducted by Getaw Hassen, MD, PhD, as his doctoral thesis in SUNY Downstate's School of Graduate Studies. Faroozan Mokhtarian, PhD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at Downstate, developed the mouse model. The inhibitor was developed by Leo Kesner, PhD, professor emeritus of biochemistry, and Alfred Stracher, PhD, distinguished professor of biochemistry.
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