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Clinical benefit of multiple sclerosis drug discovered at Rush University Medical Center
Date:4/5/2010

A drug whose clinical benefit in treating multiple sclerosis was discovered at Rush University Medical Center was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on January 22 and is now available in the U.S.

The drug, called dalfampridine, is the first therapy for multiple sclerosis that can be taken orally. It is also the first FDA-approved therapy to treat impaired walking, a debilitating symptom of the disease limiting patients' independence and ability to accomplish the most basic tasks of daily living. While other multiple sclerosis drugs work by decreasing the inflammation that causes damage to the central nervous system, dalfampridine is designed to allow conduction of nerve impulses despite the damage.

Research that led to the discovery of dalfampridine's therapeutic value dates back to the 1960s, when Dr. Floyd Davis, then a neurologist in training and later a physician at Rush, became intrigued by an unusual clinical observation: many multiple sclerosis patients fare better when their body temperature is slightly lowered, even by just two- or three-tenths of a degree.

"In multiple sclerosis, the protective myelin sheath that wraps around nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord is damaged, essentially causing a short circuit," said Davis, who is now retired. "Somehow, lower body temperature enabled the electrical pulse to continue its travel along the nerve fibers. I was completely transfixed by the significance of that fact."

It was important because it showed "that the damaged nerve fibers were not doomed, as previously believed," said Dr. Dusan Stefoski, director of the Rush Multiple Sclerosis Center, who teamed up with Davis in 1978, shortly after completing neurology training at Rush.

Davis launched a series of laboratory studies to understand the mechanism that explained the noticeable improvement in symptoms.

He then looked for a compound that could mimic some of the effects of lower bo
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Contact: Sharon Butler
Sharon_Butler@rush.edu
312-942-7816
Rush University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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