Multiple Sclerosis - OTC Glucosamine may provide some relief 28 Nov 2005 Glucosamine, the over-the counter natural product that has been touted to help with joint and cartilage problems associated with arthritis, may also provide some relief to individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative, nervous system disease with no known cure. Using a mouse model of MS, neurologists at Jefferson Medical College found that doses of glucosamine similar to those taken for osteoarthritis dramatically delayed the onset of symptoms and improved the animals' ability to move and walk. The scientists, led by A. M. Rostami, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and the Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Philadelphia, and Guang-Xian Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology at Jefferson Medical College, say the treatment's anti-inflammatory effects may be useful in conjunction with more mainstream therapies such as beta-interferon in helping patients with MS to delay or perhaps stave off some of the debilitating effects of the disease. They report their findings in the December 1, 2005 of The Journal of Immunology. "It would be fantastic if glucosamine works in humans because we have a product that has a long track record for safety, and most importantly, can be given orally," says Dr. Rostami, who is also director of the Neuroimmunology Laboratory in the Department of Neurology at Jefferson Medical College. He notes that current treatments for MS are given by injection. He hopes to test glucosamine in clinical trials in the near future. MS, one of the most common neurological diseases affecting young adults, is thought to be an autoimmune disease (in which the body attacks its own tissue) affecting the central nervous system (CNS). In MS, the myelin coating of nerve fibers becomes inflamed and scarred. As a result, "messages" cannot be sent through the nervous system. Dr. Rostami and his group used an animal model of MS called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), which mimics the human disease, to investigate glucosamine's potential immune system-suppressing properties. Such animals gradually develop the disease. In the studies, some of the mice received glucosamine, while others did not. They gave glucosamine to the mice three ways: orally, intraperitoneally and intravenously. They also tested the drug in one set of animals before the onset of symptoms, and in another group at the time the animals began to show symptoms. In each case, the researchers showed they could significantly prolong the onset of disease. That is, those animals that got glucosamine took longer to get ill and once they became ill, the disease was much less severe. It was just as effective when given early in the disease or when the animals became sick. They examined the animals' spinal cords and found less inflammation and "demyelination" in those that were given glucosamine. "As a therapy, it might be used in combination with other proven treatments, such as beta-interferon and copaxone," says Dr. Rostami. The research team has some ideas of how glucosamine exerts its effects. According to Dr. Rostami, EAE and MS are caused by abnormal responses from the immune system's T cells. There are two types: TH1, which promotes inflammation, and TH2, which is anti-inflammatory. "We've shown the glucosamine modulates the immune response by producing more TH2 responses, suppressing brain inflammation," he says. "At the same time, it suppresses TH1 response." The researchers currently are testing the effectiveness of combinations of glucosamine and standard drugs for MS in the same mouse model to look for adverse effects. They are also trying to find out if glucosamine can suppress the relapses in the relapsing/remitting form of the disease. Relapsing/remitting is the most common form of MS. Patients experience clearly defined "flare-ups," acute episodes in which neurological functions worsen, followed by partial or complete recovery periods. Over 400,000 Americans acknowledge having MS; however, many neurologists believe that nearly one million Americans are living with MS in the United States today. Symptoms can include fatigue, loss of coordination, muscle weakness, numbness, inability to walk or use hands and arms, pain, vision problems, slurred speech, decline in the ability to think and reason, and bladder/bowel dysfunction. Steve Benowitz Thomas Jefferson University --------- Curry spice may fight multiple sclerosis: study Apr 24, 2002 By E.J. Mundell NEW ORLEANS, (Reuters Health) Preliminary studies in mice suggest that curcumin, a compound found in the curry spice turmeric, may block the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). According to researcher Dr. Chandramohan Natarajan of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, mice with an MS-like illness showed little or no signs of disease symptoms after being injected with curcumin, while animals without the treatment went on to severe paralysis. "We got a very good inhibition of the disease by treating with curcumin," Natarajan told Reuters Health. He presented the findings here Tuesday at the annual Experimental Biology 2002 conference. No one knows what causes multiple sclerosis, in which the body's immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers in the brain and spine. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include muscle weakness and stiffness, balance and coordination problems, numbness and vision disturbances. Interest in the potential neuroprotective properties of curcumin rose after studies found very low levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's in elderly Indian populations. Added to this were studies confirming curcumin as a potent anti-inflammatory agent, effective in wound healing. And just last fall, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles reported that curcumin appeared to slow the progression of Alzheimer's in mice. In their 30-day study, Natarajan and co-researcher Dr. John Bright gave injections of 50- and 100-microgram doses of curcumin, three times per week, to a group of mice bred to develop a disease called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE)--an autoimmune condition used by researchers as a model for multiple sclerosis because it also results in the slow erosion of myelin. They then watched the mice for signs of MS-like neurological impairment. By day 15, mice who had not received curcumin developed EAE to such an extent that they displayed complete paralysis of both hind limbs, according to Natarajan. In contrast, mice given the 50-microgram dose of the curry compound showed only minor symptoms, such as a temporarily stiff tail. And mice given the 100-microgram dose appeared completely unimpaired throughout the 30 days of the study. The results didn't really surprise Natarajan. "In Asian countries, such as India, China, who are eating more spicy foods, more yellow compounds like curcumin...there are only very, very rare reports of MS," he pointed out. He said the doses the mice received were roughly equivalent in human terms to those found in a typical Indian diet. Just how curcumin might work to thwart the progression of demyelinization remains unclear. But the Nashville researchers believe it may interrupt the production of IL-12, a protein that plays a key role in signaling immune cells to launch their assault on the myelin sheath. Natarajan stressed that "we have to do a lot of work on this," including examining other potential mechanisms by which curcumin slows EAE and, potentially, MS. The work remains preliminary, and MS patients should follow their doctor's advice when it comes to treating the disease. Still, Natarajan said adding a little curry to the diet couldn't hurt. "I think using this spice in their food could be of help," he said.