Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Protecting MS Patients

Medical Breakthroughs
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About two million Americans suffer from multiple sclerosis -- a disease that currently has no cure. Doctors are now testing a drug that will add an effective new form of therapy to what is currently available.

Art Coscuna is a big football fan. Three years ago, he was forced to put his playing dreams on the shelf.

"I was just walking, and all of a sudden, my right foot, and up my right side, went numb. I just stopped and said, 'This isn't right.' I turned to go back to my car and I collapsed," said Coscuna.

Coscuna has MS, a disease in which the immune system attacks nerves -- affecting muscles, coordination and balance. Medications are limited in controlling the disease. Art's neurologist, Marco Rizzo, M.D., Ph.D., enrolled him in a study on an experimental drug called antegren.

"The hypothesis is that this antibody keeps the immune system from entering the spinal cord and brain and wreaking destruction," said Dr. Rizzo, of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

On an MRI, the brain of a healthy person appears uniformly gray. The MRI of a person with MS has white spots -- lesions from inflammation and scarring that result in nerve damage.

"Those patients on the drug antegren had significant improvement in MRI scans compared to those patients who received placebo," Dr. Rizzo said.

That's good news for Coscuna.

"They said, 'It will take time. It will come back. The nerves got to find a new route to run, but it's not something that's going happen overnight,'" Coscuna said.

Antegren is part of a new class of drugs being tested for treating both multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease -- both are diseases thought to be the result of a malfunctioning immune system.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Jacqueline E. Weaver
Assistant Director for Science & Medicine
Yale Office of Public Affairs
Yale University
(203) 432-8555