Treatment for two months with N-acetylcysteine, or NAC — a natural molecule that enhances the levels of antioxidants — significantly improved metabolic activity in certain brain regions among people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a small clinical study reports.
This increase in metabolic activity was accompanied by improvements in the patients’ cognitive function and attention.
“This is an exciting study that suggests a natural molecule such as NAC may help improve brain metabolism and symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis,” Andrew Newberg, MD, a professor at Thomas Jefferson University, a neuro-imaging expert, and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.
The study, “N-acetyl Cysteine Administration Is Associated With Increased Cerebral Glucose Metabolism in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis: An Exploratory Study,” was published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.
In MS, an autoimmune reaction directed against myelin — the protective protein coat around nerve fibers — leads to an inflammatory process that creates lesions and severely damages patients’ neurons, or nerve cells. Yet, available therapies focus on preventing the occurrence of more lesions instead of restoring the affected nerve cells.
Oxidative stress, an imbalance between the body’s production of potentially harmful reactive oxygen species and its ability to contain them, is a known driver of neurological damage caused by a self-reactive, or self-attacking, immune system.
Thus, tackling the oxidative imbalance is a promising strategy to help reduce the impairments in neurological function.
NAC is a natural molecule that increases the levels of glutathione in the body and the brain. Glutathione is an antioxidant found in neurons that protects these cells against oxidative damage.
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