Nav: Home

Antioxidant precursor molecule could improve brain function in patients with MS

February 26, 2020

(PHILADELPHIA) - N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a naturally occurring molecule that replenishes antioxidants and shows improved brain metabolism and self-reported improvements in cognitive function in patients with multiple sclerosis, according to a study published in the journal, Frontiers in Neurology.

The study found improvements in brain metabolism, particularly in areas that support cognition such as the frontal and temporal lobes in patients with multiple sclerosis. In addition, patients reported qualitative improvements in their cognitive and attention focusing abilities. The study was performed by the Department of Integrative Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, as well as the Departments of Neurology and Radiology, at Thomas Jefferson University.

Current treatments for multiple sclerosis are generally limited to trying to slow the progression of the disease by preventing new brain lesions from occurring. However, these approaches do not help the neurons that have already been affected by the disease process. While the primary event of multiple sclerosis results from an immunological process that targets the white matter, the actual damage to neurons may be due in large part from oxidative stress caused by the immune reaction. NAC is an oral supplement, and also comes in an intravenous form that is used to protect the liver in acetaminophen overdose. Several initial studies have shown that NAC administration increases glutathione levels in the brain. Because glutathione is an antioxidant, researchers have proposed that it could reduce the oxidative stress from the immune reaction, though it's unclear whether it would improve the function of neurons. The current study tested this by tracking cerebral glucose metabolism on positron emission tomography (PET) brain, as a proxy for normal neuronal function.

"This study is an important step in understanding how NAC might work as a potentially new avenue for managing multiple sclerosis patients. The NAC appears to enable neurons to recover some of their metabolic function," says senior author on the paper Daniel Monti, MD, Chairman of the Department of Integrative Medicine and Nutritional Sciences and Director of the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University.

Researchers evaluated 24 patients with multiple sclerosis who continued their current treatment and were placed into two groups - the first group received a combination of oral and intravenous (IV) NAC for two months (in addition to their current treatment program); and the second group, the control patients, received only their standard-of-care treatment for multiple sclerosis for two months. Patients were not blinded. Those patients in the active group received 50mg/kg NAC intravenously once per week and 500mg NAC orally 2x per day on the non IV days.

All patients underwent brain scanning using FDG PET imaging which measures the amount of glucose metabolism in the neurons throughout the brain. This test was used to determine the level of neuronal recovery. Patients were evaluated initially and after two months of either receiving the NAC or standard of care therapy. Patients were also evaluated clinically using several different measures of brain function and quality of life.

Compared to controls, the patients receiving NAC had significant improvements in brain metabolism in the caudate, inferior frontal gyrus, lateral temporal gyrus, and middle temporal gyrus as measured by FDG PET imaging. These areas are particularly important in supporting cognition and attention, which were both perceived by patients to be improved via self-reported questionnaires of overall health and well-being.

"This is an exciting study that suggests a natural molecule such as NAC may help improve brain metabolism and symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis," says corresponding author and neuro-imaging expert Andrew Newberg, MD, Professor and Director of Research at the Department of Integrative Medicine and Nutritional Sciences. The investigators hope that this research will open up new avenues of treatment for multiple sclerosis patients.
-end-
There are no conflicts of interest. The study was funded by a gift from the Marcus Foundation.

Article reference: DA Monti, et al., "N-Acetyl Cysteine Administration Is Associated with Increased Cerebral Glucose Metabolism In Patients With Multiple Sclerosis," Frontiers in Neurology. 2020.

Media Contact: Edyta Zielinska, 215-955-5291, edyta.zielinska@jefferson.edu.

Thomas Jefferson University

Related Multiple Sclerosis Articles:

'Reelin' in a new treatment for multiple sclerosis
In an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS), decreasing the amount of a protein made in the liver significantly protected against development of the disease's characteristic symptoms and promoted recovery in symptomatic animals, UTSW scientists report.
Not all multiple sclerosis-like diseases are alike
Scientists say some myelin-damaging disorders have a distinctive pathology that groups them into a unique disease entity.
New therapeutic options for multiple sclerosis in sight
Strategies for treating multiple sclerosis have so far focused primarily on T and B cells.
Diet has an impact on the multiple sclerosis disease course
The short-chain fatty acid propionic acid influences the intestine-mediated immune regulation in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The gut may be involved in the development of multiple sclerosis
It is incompletely understood which factors in patients with multiple sclerosis act as a trigger for the immune system to attack the brain and spinal cord.
Slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis
Over 77,000 Canadians are living with multiple sclerosis, a disease whose causes still remain unknown.
7T MRI offers new insights into multiple sclerosis
Investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital have completed a new study using 7 Tesla (7T) MRI -- a far more powerful imaging technology -- to further examine LME in MS patients
AAN issues guideline on vaccines and multiple sclerosis
Can a person with multiple sclerosis (MS) get regular vaccines?
How to improve multiple sclerosis therapy
Medications currently used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) can merely reduce relapses during the initial relapsing-remitting phase.
Vaccinations not a risk factor for multiple sclerosis
Data from over 12,000 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients formed the basis of a study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) which investigated the population's vaccination behavior in relation to MS.
More Multiple Sclerosis News and Multiple Sclerosis Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven't always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.