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Blood Pressure Drug Might Work Against MS
Date:8/17/2009

Research shows inflammation link between two disorders

MONDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Dr. Lawrence Steinman has this seemingly crazy idea that a drug commonly used to combat high blood pressure can help prevent the damage done to nerve cells in multiple sclerosis.

But people in the know tend to listen carefully to the ideas of Steinman, a professor of neurology at Stanford University, because one of his ideas was crucial in the development of natalizumab (Tysabri), a now widely used medication that can reduce the incidence of relapses in multiple sclerosis (MS) by two-thirds.

Research exploring Steinman's latest brainstorm appears online Aug. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Steinman said he got his latest idea after he was prescribed the ACE inhibitor lisinopril (Zestril) for high blood pressure. When he put the drug name into his computer's search engines, vague references to a relationship between the drug's target, angiotensin, and multiple sclerosis started showing up.

An ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitor blocks the activity of an enzyme that converts angiotensin to a form that tightens blood vessels.

"Angiotensin constricts blood vessels in response to standing up, so we don't faint," he said. "Nerve cells are intrinsically tied up with blood vessel walls, and that pathway plays a role in inflammation."

Inflammation also plays a crucial role in multiple sclerosis, in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath of nerve cells in the brain. "We can also argue that inflammation plays a role in hypertension," Steinman said.

Working with researchers from other institutions, he put the idea to a variety of tests, such as examining tissue from brain samples of people with MS. The studies showed significantly elevated levels of the cell receptors for angiotensin and the enzyme blocked by lisinopril and other ACE i
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