MS Research Roundup: March 21, 2014
Tests of HIV Drug in Progress for RRMS; Statin Discovery in Progressive MS; Bench-to-Bedside MS Research Talks Online
MS Research Roundup collects items of interest to multiple sclerosis researchers from around the Web. Send us your tips: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Testing HIV Treatment for MS
An article published online March 20 in MedPage Today reviews the rationale for two early-stage clinical trials testing the idea that MS may be triggered or exacerbated by ancient virus remnants lodged in everyone's DNA. Called human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs), the infectious relics make up about 8% of the human genome. One line of research identified a toxic HERV protein that seems to both incite inflammation in the brain and spinal cord and hobble the cells necessary for repairing damage to myelin. A Swiss company called GeNeuro SA, cofounded by French neurovirologist Hervé Perron, PhD, has developed a monoclonal antibody called GNbAC1, which targets the HERV protein. Dr. Perron is slated to give an updated report on the antibody's safety results from a phase 2 trial next month at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting.
The other clinical trial arose from the combined logic that HERV particles must emerge from the genome by reverse transcription from DNA to RNA, the same mechanism used by HIV, and from the strikingly reduced risk for MS among people being treated for HIV with highly antiretroviral therapy. Motivated by the new MS diagnosis of his wife's best friend, Australian infectious disease specialist Julian Gold, MBBS, MD, teamed up with Gavin Giovannoni, MBBCh, PhD, from Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, United Kingdom, to test the antiretroviral drug raltegravir (Isentress, Merck). In his October 3, 2013, presentation at the European MS meeting in Copenhagen, Dr. Gold pledged to report the results of this trial at the combined American and European MS meeting held September 10 to 13, 2014, in Boston, Massachusetts. (MedPageToday, MS Discovery Forum, American Academy of Neurology, ClinicalTrials.gov)
Statin Results Merit Further Study
High doses of a cholesterol-lowering statin taken by large numbers of people to prevent cardiovascular disease slightly reduced brain atrophy in people with advanced MS, for whom no treatment exists, researchers report in an article published online January 19 in the Lancet. Although the 3-year, double-blind trial of 140 people with secondary progressive MS was not big enough to detect an effect of simvastatin on disability, a companion commentary called the study promising but urged both caution in interpretation and continued testing in larger studies. The trial is the culmination of long-standing research on the anti-inflammatory effects of statins, but their effect on neurodegenerative measures may suggest a different mechanism. The findings not only raise research questions of mechanism, dose, and adverse effects, wrote Dr. Giovannoni in a blog post, but they also raise the increasingly frequent question of who will advance further studies of an inexpensive, generic drug of potential benefit to people with MS. "[E]ven if this new miracle cure proves to be true [it] will slow the shrinking of the brain only from 0.6% to 0.3% a year," commented Peter Thompson in the Guardian. "On the other hand, never have three-thousandths of the trillions of neurons and nerve cells in my brain seemed so valuable and worth preserving." (ABC News Blogs, The Guardian, Multiple Sclerosis Research blog, Web MD Boots)
Bioconference Live Neuroscience MS Talks Online
MSDF live-tweeted highlights from the three MS-related talks during the Bioconference Live online neuroscience meeting March 19 to 20, but you can go straight to the source for some virtual face time (and slides). Most of the talks from the 2-day meeting are archived online through the end of June and can be viewed for free (registration and login are required, click on "Presentations"). To see the bench-to-bedside-themed MS talks, look for "A Unique B Cell Derived Signature of Multiple Sclerosis and Its Biologic Implications" (Benjamin Greenberg, MD), "Remyelinating the Adult Central Nervous System: Repairing Injury in MS" (Ari Green, MD), and "MS Bioscreen: From the Bedside to the Bench and Back" (Pierre-Antoine Gourraud, PhD, MPH).
Gavin Giovannoni, MBBCh, PhD, and Pierre-Antoine Gourraud, PhD, MPH, are members of the MSDF Scientific Advisory Board.