Scientists at the Multiple Sclerosis Center at UC San Francisco have released their findings from a five-month long study conducted to determine whether an over the counter antihistamine, normally used to treat allergies and the common cold, can be of help to MS patients who have suffered damage to their vision.
The antihistamine, clemastine fumarate, has the ability to partially reverse the damage caused to the optic nerve. This damage occurs when the immune system destroys the protective coating around the nerves, slowing down the signals as they travel to and from the brain.
During the study, the researchers examined 50 people with MS and optic neuropath. The group had an average age of 40, and had been diagnosed with MS for an average of five years. Everyone in the group also showed evidence of permanent damage to the optic nerve. The participants were given visual tests at the beginning and end of the five-month research period, with the time taken for the transmission of a signal from the retina to the visual cortex being recorded. To be eligible to take part in the research, the delay in transmission time in at least one eye had to be in excess of 118 milliseconds. Each patient also had to have enough nerve fibres to repair the damaged myelin.
The study participants were either given the antihistamine or a placebo for the first three months of the trial. After this period, the people taking antihistamines were given the placebo, and those taking the placebo were started on the clemastine fumarate. The results showed that when the patients took the antihistamine, the delay in transmission time was reduced by almost two milliseconds in each eye, an exciting discovery, as it’s the first study of its type to demonstrate that it may be possible to repair the damage caused by MS to the protective coating.
Further research is needed before the antihistamine can be prescribed for MS patients, and for researchers to use these findings to develop more powerful drugs to target this problem.
The results of the research will be presented at the 2016 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting which will be held in Vancouver between April 15 and 21st.