Vitamin Shows Promise for MS Patients

Mouse model finds a form of B3 prevents ongoing damage to nerve fibers

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TUESDAY, Sept. 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Multiple sclerosis patients may benefit from a form of vitamin B3, a new study finds.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) results in damage to nerve fibers, causing fatigue, difficulty walking, pain and other problems. Most people with MS eventually enter a chronic progressive phase of the disease for which there is currently no good treatment.

New research published in the Sept. 20 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience studied the effects of injecting nicotinamide -- a form of vitamin B3 -- under the skin of mice that had an MS-like disease.

The researchers, from the Neurobiology Program in Children's Hospital Boston, found the injections protected nerve fibers in the mice from degeneration -- even in the nerve cells that had already been damaged.

The higher the dose of nicotinamide, the more protective the effect, the study found.

On a scale of one to five, with one indicating the least nerve damage and five indicating the most, the mice receiving the highest doses of nicotinamide had neurologic scores of one to two, and those receiving no nicotinamide had scores between three and four.

Even the mice in which treatment was delayed until 10 days after the onset of their disease benefited.

"The earlier therapy was started, the better the effect, but we hope nicotinamide can help patients who are already in the chronic state," Shinjiro Kaneko, a research fellow at Children's, said in a prepared statement.

Researchers believe nicotinamide works by increasing the levels of a compound known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which has been shown to directly prevent nerve degeneration.

More information

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: Children's Hospital Boston, news release, Sept. 19, 2006

Krisha McCoy

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