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!
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences