Scientists at the Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories at Jefferson Medical College have shown that uric acid, a common metabolic product, may lessen symptoms of a mouse disease that is considered as a model for multiple sclerosis in humans.
Hilary Koprowski, MD, Professor of Microbiology and
Immunology, and Director of the Biotechnology Foundation
Laboratories, and D. Craig Hooper, PhD, Assistant Professor of
Microbiology and Immunology, and a member of Jefferson's Kimmel
Cancer Center, and their co-workers found that uric acid lessened
weakness and paralysis and prolonged survival in animals
with experimental allergic encephalomyelitis.
Uric acid inactivates "scavenges" a toxic compound, peroxynitrite, which has been implicated in the progressive central nervous system damage that characterizes multiple sclerosis, according to Dr. Koprowski.
Several other findings add further proof that uric acid may indeed play a role in multiple sclerosis, he points out. The scientists found significantly lower levels of uric acid in the blood of multiple sclerosis patients than in age-matched controls with other neurological diseases. And in a review of records of 20 million outpatients in 1995 by the Department of Health and Human Services, the frequency of those suffering from both gout, a condition marked by excessive levels of uric acid, and multiple sclerosis, is far less than what would be statistically predicted. Dr. Koprowski notes that a review of patient records shows that "gout and multiple sclerosis are almost mutually exclusive."
Dr. Koprowski and his co-workers report their findings Jan. 20 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The next step is to test the effectiveness of uric acid treatments on patients, he says. He and his colleagues have begun planning a clinical trial to see how well uric acid may halt symptoms of multiple sclerosis in those who have progressive disease. "We hope that uric acid will arrest disease progression," he says. "How much better a patient may get depends on how much damage has been done by the disease already."
The research was supported by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through funding to the Biotechnology Foundation, Inc.