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Caffeine Could Stave Off Multiple Sclerosis
Date:6/30/2008

Finding may help scientists develop drug to treat autoimmune disease, researcher says

MONDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Caffeine just might prevent multiple sclerosis, a new animal study suggests.

Giving mice the equivalent of 6 to 8 cups of coffee a day prevented mice from getting the animal model equivalent of MS, said Dr. Linda Thompson, of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, and a member of the team reporting the finding in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease, affects about 400,000 Americans, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The T-cells from the body's immune system attack the myelin, the fatty sheath that normally protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. This, in turn, produces scar tissue and triggers the symptoms of MS, which can include numbness, weakness, lack of muscle coordination and problems with bladder control, speech and vision.

Here's why the coffee warded off MS, Thompson explained: It prevented the molecule adenosine, one of the four building blocks of DNA, from binding to the adenosine receptor at the cellular level. When adenosine cannot bind to receptors at the cellular level, this in turn prevents T-cells from reaching the central nervous system and setting off the events that lead to the animal version of MS.

"From a scientific point of view, the bottom line is, adenosine in this mouse model is needed for the disease-causing T-cells to get into the central nervous system," Thompson said. "That was the big, unexpected finding."

The discovery shows how important the adenosine molecule is in allowing immune cells to infiltrate the central nervous system. In the animals, the T-cells were activated, but they couldn't get into the central nervous system, because the caffeine was bound to the adenosine receptors.

Dr. John Richert, executiv
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