German team combines 2 old drugs for new MS treatment

Two long-marketed immunosuppressant drugs, combined into a single compound, effectively treated multiple sclerosis in preclinical studies with effective, targeted results and few side effects. And now the venerable German institutions involved in the project are seeking a patent for the treatment, with an eye toward advancing into human trials.

The Max Planck Research Unit for Enzymology of Protein Folding collaborated on the effort with the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, using a combination of Cyclosporine and FK506. Both are immunosuppressant medications used for organ transplant patients and in other indications. But the combination, the researchers believe, worked better together than apart, because it offered heightened protection to nerve cells but minimized any impact on the immune system, greatly lessening side effects.

This is interesting news for those seeking new MS treatments. As the researchers explain, MS harms the central nervous system, ultimately destroying myelin sheaths of the neural axons, with the body's own immune system causing the damage. But the combined treatment, at least in preclinical testing, appears to prevent the damage but also help cell regeneration.

Still, there is a long way to go before the finish line. The researchers say the patent application process could take several years. In the interim, they hope to finish preclinical studies of their compound and then human studies will follow. And while there are no guarantees the drug combo will work in humans, it certainly opens a new avenue of research. As well, the scientists say the drug combo may also work in other chronic and age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

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