Published on November 1, 2012 at 8:25 AM
This enzyme is highly elevated in MS patient brain lesions and in the nervous systems of animals with an MS-like disease. The research team, which included OHSU pediatric neurologist Stephen Back, M.D., and OHSU neuroscientist Steve Matsumoto, Ph.D., found that by blocking hyaluronidase activity, they could promote myelin-forming cell differentiation and remyelination in the mice with the MS-like disease. Most significantly, the drug that blocked hyaluronidase activity led to improved nerve cell function.
The next step is to develop drugs that specifically target this enzyme. "The drugs we used in this study could not be used to treat patients because of the serious side effects they might cause," said Sherman. "If we can block the specific enzyme that is contributing to remyelination failure in the nervous system, it would likely cause few, if any, side effects."
Sherman and other researchers at the ONPRC are uniquely positioned to test newly developed drugs for their safety and effectiveness in nonhuman primates at ONPRC that spontaneously develop an MS-like disease. If they find a drug that is effective in these monkeys, they will be in a good position to test such drugs in patients.
Sherman cautioned that the discovery does not necessarily signal a cure for MS. Many other factors can contribute to the problems associated with MS and other demyelinating diseases, he said. But discovering the actions of this enzyme - and finding a way to block it - "could at the very least lead to new ways to promote the repair of brain and spinal cord damage either by targeting this enzyme alone or by inhibiting the enzyme in conjunction with other therapies."
Source: Oregon Health & Science University