Watkins and her colleagues in CU-Boulder's department of psychology and neuroscience discovered that a single injection of a compound called ATL313 -- an anti-inflammatory drug being developed to treat chronic pain -- stopped the progression of MS-caused paralysis in rats for weeks at a time.
Lisa Loram, a senior research associate who spearheaded the project in Watkins' laboratory, presented the findings at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting held in San Diego this week.
MS is an inflammatory disease where the body's immune system attacks a protective sheath called myelin that encompasses nerves in the spinal cord and brain. As the disease progresses, the myelin develops lesions, or scars, that cause permanent neurological problems.
"What happens now with MS drugs is they slow or stop the progression of MS, but they don't treat it," Watkins said. "They don't take people back to normal because the lesions caused by MS don't heal."
Watkins, Loram and their colleagues hope to use spinal cord and brain-imaging technology to extend their studies to determine if lesions are being healed in rats that received an ATL313 injection.
"If we have a drug that is able to heal these lesions, this treatment could be a major breakthrough in how we treat the symptoms of MS in the future," she said.
The new findings were quite a surprise to Watkins. The team had originally wanted to look at the drug's potential in treating pain associated with MS, because about 70 to 80 percent of MS patients suffer from chronic pain that is not treatable.
"What we had originally thought about this class of compounds is that they would calm down glial cells in the spinal cord because their pro-inflammatory activation is what causes pain," she said.
Under normal circumstances glial cells are thought to be like housekeepers in the nervous system, Watkins said, essentially cleaning up debris and providing support for neurons. Recent work by Watkins and others has shown that glial cells in the central nervous system also act as key players in pain enhancement by exciting neurons that transmit pain signals.
"What's become evident is that glial cells have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality," Watkins said. "Under normal circumstances they do all these really good things for the neurons, but when they shift into the Mr. Hyde formation they release a whole host of chemicals that cause problems like neuropathic pain and other chronic pain conditions."
They discovered that ATL313 appears to reset the glial cells from an angry activated state to a calm anti-inflammatory state that may heal MS lesions.
Contributing to the findings presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting were Watkins, Loram, Keith Strand, Derick Taylor, Evan Sloane and Steven Maier of CU-Boulder; Jayson Rieger of the company PGxHealth, a division of Clinical Data Inc. based in Newton, Mass.; and Natalie Serkova of the University of Colorado Denver's Anschutz Medical Campus.
The study was funded by PGxHealth and grants from the state of Colorado's CO-Pilot program, the National Institutes on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Neurological Disease and Stroke.
Linda Watkins | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering