Topical medications for skin ailments may be able to alleviate and reverse damage caused by multiple sclerosis.
The damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) may be able to be reduced using 2 topical medicines typically used for skin conditions, according to findings published in the journal Nature.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve screened a library of small molecules in mice models of MS in order to discover therapeutic compounds for enhancing myelination from cells. Two topical medications — one for athlete’s foot and one for eczema – were used in the evaluation.
The researchers found both topical medications were able to stimulate the regeneration of damaged brain cells. Additionally, they were able to reverse paralysis when the drugs were administered systematically into the animal models of MS.
“We know that there are stem cells throughout the adult nervous system that are capable of repairing the damage caused by MS, but until now, we had no way to direct them to act,” study author Paul Tesar, PhD explained in a press release. “Our approach was to find drugs that could catalyze the body’s own stem cells to replace the cells lost in MS.”
The drugs were effective on mice but the human impact will not be fully understood until clinical trials begin, the researchers said. There is reason for optimism though, because the researchers were able to test the drugs on human stem cells and saw similar results presented in the animal models.
“To replace damaged cells, much of the stem cell field has focused on direct transplantation of stem cell derived tissues for regenerative medicine, and that approach is likely to provide enormous benefit down the road,” Tesar continued. “But here we asked if we could find a faster and less invasive approach by using drugs to activate native stem cells already in the adult nervous system and direct them to form new myelin. Our ultimate goal was to enhance the body’s ability to repair itself.”
Before these medications can be properly utilized, the researchers stressed, the topical medications must be able to be safely used internally. However, the fact that these drugs are already federally approved for other uses increases the likelihood that the compounds will be able to be made safe for human internal use.
“We appreciate that some patients or their families feel they cannot wait for the development of specific approved medications,” Tesar concluded, “but off label use of the current forms of these drugs is more likely to increase other health concerns than alleviate MS symptoms. We are working tirelessly to ready a safe and effective drug for clinical use.”