A new study suggests that the antidepressant medication clomipramine may function to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In this instance, the drug was tested to treat progressive multiple sclerosis, in which the symptoms and causes of the disease increase in severity over time.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the insulating cover of the nervous system and cells, called the myelin sheath, are damaged. The damage disrupts the ability of the nervous system communicate, resulting in a variety of possible symptoms. These symptoms include double vision, muscle weakness, blindness in one eye, poor coordination, and psychiatric problems. In some forms, symptoms occur in brief, isolated episodes or can build up and worsen over time. Causes may include genetic factors and viral infections. There is currently no cure for MS, so treatment focuses on reducing the severity of symptoms and delaying their return after an episode. To learn more about MS, click here.
While there are a number of treatments available for relapsing-remitting MS, there are only a few therapeutic approaches available for the progressive form. Doctors say that the causal mechanism for the two forms are not the identical, which is why different treatments are needed for each one.
The trajectory of research for the study did not involve the testing of a new drug, but instead was a process of narrowing down to a handful of current treatments that may have a potential positive effect. Clomipramine emerged as a possible candidate because it suppressed the activity of leukocytes, white blood cells that attack the myelin sheath. The drug also reduces damage to the mitochondria of the nerve cells.
Using mice for testing, the treatment appeared to be equally successful in suppressing abnormalities when tested against a disease comparable to relapsing-remitting MS and progressive MS.