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Led by researchers at Case Western Reserve, a multi-institutional team used a new discovery approach to identify drugs that could activate mouse and human brain stem cells in the laboratory. The two most potent drugs - one that currently treats athlete's foot, and the other, eczema - were capable of stimulating the regeneration of damaged brain cells and reversing paralysis when administered systemically to animal models of multiple sclerosis. The results are published online Monday, April 20, in the scientific journal Nature.
The findings mark the most promising developments to date in efforts to help the millions of people around the world who suffer from multiple sclerosis. The disease is the most common chronic neurological disorder among young adults, and results from aberrant immune cells destroying the protective coating, called myelin, around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Using a state-of-the-art imaging microscope, the investigators quantified the effects of 727 previously known drugs, all of which have a history of use in patients, on OPC in the laboratory. The most promising medications fell into two specific chemical classes. From there, the researchers found that miconazole and clobetasol performed best within the respective classes. Miconazole is found in an array of over-the-counter antifungal lotions and powders, including those to treat athlete's foot. Clobetasol, meanwhile, is typically available by prescription to treat scalp and other skin conditions such as dermatitis. Neither had been previously considered as a therapeutic for multiple sclerosis, but testing revealed each had an ability to stimulate OPCs to form new myelinating cells. When administered systemically to lab mice afflicted with a multiple sclerosis-like disease, both drugs prompted native OPCs to regenerate new myelin.
"We have pioneered technologies that enable us to generate both mouse and human OPCs in our laboratory," said Fadi Najm, MBA, the first author of the study and Research Scientist in the Department of Genetics & Genome Sciences at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. "This uniquely positioned us to test if these drugs could also stimulate human OPCs to generate new myelinating cells."
That said, using existing, federally approved drugs enhances the likelihood that the compounds can be made safe for human use.
Miconazole is found in an array of over-the-counter antifungal lotions and powders, including those to treat athlete's foot. Clobetasol, meanwhile, is typically available by prescription to treat scalp and other skin conditions such as dermatitis.
For 45 years, ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization, has been dedicated to bringing the discipline of applied scientific research to discover which medical procedures, devices, drugs, and
processes are best, all to enable you to improve patient care.