Multiple Sclerosis Treatments Benefit From Discovery of New Inflammatory Molecule

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A newly discovered molecule could play a pivotal role in inflammatory diseases, including multiple sclerosis, according to researchers at Trinity College Dublin and the University of Queensland Australia.

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicineand describes a molecule known as MCC950 that can suppress the ‘NLRP3 inflammasome’, a key process in inflammatory diseases.

Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common inflammatory neurological conditions that affects young adults worldwide. MS can occur at any age, although generally diagnosis occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. In the case of multiple sclerosis the body’s inflammatory response, instead of acting in a protective manner, launches an attack on the myelin that wraps around nerve cells and allows them to conduct impulses. This results in unpredictable damage to the nervous system, known as lesions. Symptoms such as loss of movement, numbness, tingling, pain, loss of eyesight and cognitive impairment may result.

According to Professor of Biochemistry at Trinity, Luke O’Neill, one of the researchers who discovered the molecule: “Drugs like aspirin or steroids can work in several diseases, but can have side effects or be ineffective. What we have found is a potentially transformative medicine, which targets what appears to be the common disease-causing process in a myriad of inflammatory diseases.”

Dr. Rebecca Coll, first author added: “MCC950 is blocking what was suspected to be a key process in inflammation. There is huge interest in NLRP3 both among medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies and we feel our work makes a significant contribution to the efforts to find new medicines to limit it.”

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The study’s co-author Professor Matt Cooper, from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) explained that, “MCC950 is able to be given orally and will be cheaper to produce than current protein-based treatments, which are given daily, weekly, or monthly by injection. Importantly, it will also have a shorter duration in the body, allowing clinicians to stop the anti-inflammatory action of the drug if the patient ever needed to switch their immune response back to 100% in order to clear an infection.”

The medication may provide a treatment for multiple sclerosis, although several additional human studies would be needed for this to become a reality. “We are really excited about MCC950. We believe this has real potential to benefit patients suffering from several highly debilitating diseases, where there is currently a dire need for new medicines,” added Professor O’Neill.