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Common Asthma Drug Could Speed MS Treatment
Date:9/13/2010

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A common asthma drug might accelerate the benefits of treatment for multiple sclerosis when combined with standard medicine, new research suggests.

The authors of this small and preliminary study showed that albuterol, prescribed for a variety of respiratory illnesses, enhances the effects of glatiramer acetate, a drug already prescribed for MS patients.

Because albuterol is known to reduce a substance in the body connected to the onset of MS, doctors at Harvard looked at using the drug as an add-on treatment.

Study author Dr. Samia J. Khoury said the study was designed to see if the drug helped reduce symptoms of the inflammatory disease.

"Albuterol causes the [immune system] cells to change the type of interleukin they produce to one that is beneficial in MS," said Khoury, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "The idea was that albuterol may enhance the effect of Copaxone [glatiramer acetate], and this was confirmed in the study."

Interleukins are molecules that enable cells to communicate with one another. They promote or reduce the growth of cells involved in the inflammatory process that is thought to drive MS.

Multiple sclerosis attacks the brain and spinal column and can affect muscles throughout the body, resulting in problems walking, breathing, and speaking, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The disease destroys the protective myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells, leading those cells to eventually shut down. Usually diagnosed in early adulthood, it is estimated to cost billions each year in the United States. It affects twice as many women as men, and is five times more likely to be found in temperate climates, according to the NIH.

Multiple sclerosis usually goes into remission and relapses in unpredictable cycles.
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