A new preclinical study has just discovered that a vitamin could help treat the devastating disease that is multiple sclerosis (MS).
Usually first diagnosed in patients aged 15 to 40, MS is a disease that impacts the central nervous system, causing havoc amongst the brain, spinal cord, and eyes. How does it happen? Well, in the central nervous system, a substance called “myelin” protects the nerve fibers and helps nerve impulses travel faster.
In MS, the immune system (for reasons unknown) attacks the myelin coating. This damage, referred to as “sclerosis,” lesions or plaques, disrupts the flow of nerve impulses along the fibers, meaning that the nervous system’s messages are not sent properly.
This unpredictable condition can progress differently among different people, causing a great variety of symptoms and symptom combinations, including fatigue, coordination problems, speech difficulties, bladder or bowel dysfunction, vision difficulties, loss of short-term memory, and paralysis, among others.
MS can be relapsing-remitting — meaning that attacks will be followed by periods of remission. Or, MS can be progressive — meaning that the symptoms get progressively worse, without any periods of remission. Note that there are no current treatments for the progressive form of the disease.
In a Boston animal study that used mice, researchers looked at the effects of “nicotinamide,” a form of vitamin B3, on experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the animal version of MS (induced for research purposes).
When injected with nicotinamide at the same time as they were given EAE, the mice experienced a slower progression of the disease. Moreover, their symptoms were not as bad as in those in mice that did not receive the vitamin injection. Researchers also tested the nicotinamide on mice that had been suffering from EAE for a while — these rodents experienced a slowdown or complete halt of the progression of their condition and had improved symptoms. The higher the dose of nicotinamide, the greater the benefits were.
Notably, the nicotinamide injections worked in the progressive form of the animal MS, not just the relapsing- remitting type. This is a major breakthrough in the research on this neurological disease. It seems that nicotinamide is very promising for the treatment of MS — however, studies must be done on humans to support these findings. Another cautionary note is that the levels of the vitamin needed to produce the beneficial effects are much higher than standard doses and therefore must be tested for side effects.