Study Links MS to Brain Chemical Deficiency

TUESDAY Feb. 15, 2011 -- Multiple sclerosis is associated with reduced levels of an important neurotransmitter, noradrenaline -- a shortage caused by damage to an area of the brain called the locus coeruleus (LC), researchers have found.

Neurons in this part of the brain are a major source of noradrenaline, which plays an important role as an immunosuppressant in the brain, preventing inflammation and stress to neurons.

"There's a lot of evidence of damage to the LC in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, but this is the first time that it has been demonstrated that there is stress involved to the neurons of the LC of MS patients, and that there is a reduction in brain noradrenaline levels," the study's first author, Paul Polak, a research specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a university news release.

He and his colleagues found LC damage and reduced levels of noradrenaline in mice with MS and detected similar problems in the brains of people with the disease. The results suggest that LC damage and an accompanying reduction in noradrenaline levels may be common to many neurological diseases, they said.

The study was published online Feb. 4 in Brain.

"There are a number of FDA-approved drugs that have been shown to raise levels of noradrenaline in the brain, and we believe that this type of therapeutic intervention could benefit patients with MS and other neurodegenerative diseases, and should be investigated," Polak said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about multiple sclerosis.

Posted: February 2011


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