Portland -- Oregon Health & Sciences University researchers are celebrating their new discovery they say stands a good chance of helping people suffering from multiple sclerosis and a range of other neurological disorders.
They've discovered high levels of a particular enzyme not usually found in the brain, only in those with brain damage due to MS, stroke and conditions.
Lead researcher Larry Sherman Ph.D. believes if they can figure out how to block the enzyme, the brain can repair itself, where insulating shields around nerve cells have been damaged or destroyed.
"We have a chance now of understanding a whole new process that's preventing repair of the brain. And we have the possibility of finding a drug in the next several years that could repair the brain in MS patients and other patients where this nerve sheath is destroyed," said Sherman.
The next step is to find a drug or combination of medicines that block the enzyme. Researchers will first try to find a successful treatment using Japanese Macaque monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, affiliated with OHSU. The small percentage of the monkeys have a disease similar to MS in humans.
"These animals get this disease spontaneously and if we can reverse this disease process in these animals--show that it's safe--it does its job. We are hopeful we can then take this to patients, hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years if not sooner," said Sherman.
The sooner the better for MS patients like Mike Stofiel of Damascus. He has suffered symptoms including pain and numbness and loss of muscle over 15 years since his diagnosis.
"It's a big deal: it may not work for me but the person behind me next in line. That's great, no matter what. It's good news all around for everybody with MS," said Stofiel.