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New MS Research Shows Remarkable Findings

February 08, 2004

Montreal, Quebec - New research findings from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center (MUHC) provide hope for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), one of the most common and devastating diseases of the nervous system. These findings, published in today in Neuron, characterize an enzyme that plays a central role in the onset and progress of MS.

" We have identified a key enzyme that triggers MS-like disease in an animal model," says MUHC neuroscientist and Professor of Medicine at McGill University, Dr. Sam David. "We also show that blocking this enzyme has a remarkable effect in preventing disease and relapses."

MS, an autoimmune disease of the nervous system, affects approximately 35,000 young adults in Canada. It is twice as prevalent in females. MS is an inflammatory disease in which the body's own immune system attacks the insulating membranes surrounding nerve fibers. This damage results in loss of sensations and paralysis. Although genetic, infectious or environmental factors are thought to induce MS, the exact cause of the disease is still not known.

Dr. David with his Ph.D. student Athena Kalyvas showed in a mouse model of MS that the amount of the enzyme, phospholipase A2 (cPLA2), is increased in spinal cord lesions. They further demonstrated that treatment with a chemical inhibitor of this enzyme results in a marked reduction in the onset and severity of the disease.

"This discovery suggests that the cPLA2 enzyme may be an excellent target for the development of drugs to treat MS, " concluded Dr. David.

This work was supported by funds from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

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