Promising Fatty Acid Research Leads To MS Clinical Trial

December 05, 1997

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a common, disabling neurological disease of young adults. At the British Society for Immunology Annual Congress in Brighton this week, Laurence Harbige of the University of Greenwich and St Thomas' Hospital, London will present work on the effects of fatty acids in experimental models of MS.

Dr Harbige, working with colleagues at St Thomas' Hospital, has found that fatty acids from various plants and fungi can alter the course of the disease in animal models of MS. When fed these fatty acids, in a purified form, rodents with an experimental disease resembling MS did not develop disease.

MS is thought to be due to the body's immune system attacking our own tissue. In MS myelin, an insulating material surrounding nerve cells, is damaged. Dr Harbige and his colleagues think that certain fatty acids work by dampening down the damaging effects of the immune system.

The next stage is to find out whether the treatment will be effective in people with MS. MS patients have already been recruited for a double blind clinical trial to be conducted at St Thomas' Hospital starting early in the New Year.

Although encouraged by the experimental work, Dr Harbige warns against premature excitement over a treatment for people with MS, saying "further rigorous clinical and laboratory research is essential before we can recommend any such treatment for MS."

This research is supported by the Henry Smiths Charity. The Multiple Sclerosis Society has a help line for the general public to obtain further information on MS: 0171 371 8000.

1. Dr Harbige is speaking in the Lipids and the immune system workshop on Friday
5 December. The BSI 5th Annual Congress will be held at the Brighton Centre, Brighton, UK from 2-5 December 1997.
2. Dr Laurence Harbige can be contacted at the School of Chemical and Life Sciences, University of Greenwich, Wellington Street, London SE18 6PF. Tel: +44 181 331 8485 Fax: +44 181 331 8305
3. There will be a press office at the meeting in operation from 9am on Tuesday
2 December. Tel: +44 1 273 724 320 / 0378 406 416. Journalists are welcome to attend but are asked to contact Kirstie Urquhart in advance to register.
4. Before the meeting Kirstie can be contacted on +44 181 875 2402 /

British Society For Immunology

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