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Gilenya shown to benefit neurons (07/04/16)

The immune system-suppressing multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Gilenya also has potentially beneficial effects on the nervous system, according to a recent study.

Gilenya is a relatively new medication for MS, and researchers designed the drug to target the immune system. In MS, the immune system is overactive and damages myelin, the substance that wraps around neurons and allows them to communicate efficiently. Increasing evidence suggests neurons are also damaged, and that the axons that extend from these brain cells and connect them to one another may be lost.

Clinical trials on Gilenya have shown the drug reduces the rate of relapses in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients by approximately 50 per cent over two years.

Sofia Anastasiadou and Bernd Knöll from the Institute of Physiological Chemistry, Ulm University, Germany, explored the possibility that Gilenya has additional effects on the nervous system, which may complement its influence on suppressing the immune system.

The researchers grew mouse neurons in a dish (in vitro) that had been taken from a region of the brain that controls movement, known as the cerebellum. They then added Gilenya to the cells and looked for changes in neurons, using a variety of standard laboratory measurements.

The team observed that Gilenya had several different effects on neuron growth. It caused extensions — known as neurites — to grow from the cells, and increased several molecules that indicate axon growth.

To understand whether Gilenya might not only influence the development of neurons but also repair the damaged nervous system, researchers next gave the drug to mice with a damaged facial nerve. Gilenya improved the regeneration of axons in the facial nerve, and its actions seemed to depend on the activation of a transcription factor (gene regulating molecule) called serum response factor (SRF), which is known to protect neurons.

Gilenya may have more beneficial effects in MS than previously believed, and could potentially be used to treat other neurological diseases or nervous system injuries.

Source: Multiple Sclerosis News Today © Copyright 2014 - 2016 BioNews Services, LLC (07/04/16)