THE CHARCOT PROJECT- TOWARDS A CURE FOR MS.
Last weekend at the Research Day Prof Gold (Prof G Down Under) from Team G aired his new vision for the treatment of MS, but you will have to wait for the video evidence to appear. As many do not view the blog but get their news by non computer means. I do this post. Is this IG11?, a pipe dream that needs development before it gets off the ground or an alternative view that is worth a shot?
There is increasing evidence to support the hypothesis that multiple sclerosis (MS) is either caused, or triggered, by an infectious agent, probably a virus.
The most compelling evidence points to Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) as there is now overwhelming evidence that infection with EBV is essential to development of MS. Therefore, it appears that it is not possible to have adult MS without having previously been infected with EBV. However, the corollary is not true so having EBV infection does not always lead to MS.
Other factors have also been linked to acquiring MS such as vitamin D deficiency (related to living in the far northern and southern hemispheres), smoking and genetic susceptibility. Each of these factors, taken separately contributes to the risk of acquiring MS, but individually they do not explain the disease and its effect on the immune and neurological systems. Recently, there is interesting evidence that may link some or all of these factors to a recently discovered virus and their influence on it and this may provide a biologically plausible cause for MS.
If true, there is the possibility, of treating MS with targeted anti-viral therapies.
The link between the various risk factors is the discovery of a Human Endogenous Retrovirus (HERV) that is significantly present in patients with MS and not in patients with other neurological conditions or in healthy controls.
HERVs are extremely interesting viruses. Following mapping of the human genome during the past decade, scientists discovered that 8% of our genome is composed of viral DNA. This viral DNA was integrated into our genome at various times over the past 6 to 8 million of years and has been passed down from generation-to-generation as our genes are inheritance by our children.
Most of these viruses are no longer active, but some recent laboratory work in Switzerland, Denmark, the U.K. and the U.S.A. indicates a selected number of these viruses can, in fact, be reactivated and can cause the same myelin and axonal loss that we see in patients with MS.
It has further been observed that EBV can up-regulate (activate) these HERVs, which would help to explain the key role that EBV plays in the pathogenesis of MS. This field of research is very early and is both challenging and exciting.
The field of MS treatment is currently dominated by drug companies who have focused their attention on developing lifelong therapies that target the immune system, without necessarily addressing the possible causes of MS. These therapies are problematic to administer, have considerable side-effects and risks and are expensive and lifelong.
There are drug companies out there that specialise in developments of treatments for infectious diseases but have so far not taken an interest in MS…….so Wakey, Wakey, Wakey
Before progressing with launching The Charcot Project (Jean-Martin Charcot first described Multiple Sclerosis in 1868), we have consulted with some of the world authorities on retroviruses and we believe HERVs should be investigated as a possible cause for MS and could possibly be controlled using treatments currently available for other retroviruses. The most well-known retrovirus is Human Immuno deficicency virus or HIV (which causes AIDS) and while it has little in common with the HERV virus that may cause MS, it is possible that treatments developed and effective for HIV, may benefit patients with MS. These treatments are aimed at controlling retroviruses, by interrupting various stages of the virus life-cycle. and they have proven to be very efficient. We have some anecdotal evidence that HIV anti-retroviral drugs may have benefit in MS.
Is this a fluke? or are they on to something?
AIMS:The Charcot Project will aim to elucidate the direct role of viruses as the trigger and cause of MS and to test available drugs to interrupt the life-cycle of these viruses in order to control MS. In this context ‘control’ is defined as possibly taking a tablet each day that would completely suppress viral activity, with minimal or no potential for disease progression.
If this is seen as a bit of fresh (or hot) air, it has to be seen that it is only the starting point. Some people will embrace this idea and a lot of people will be sceptical. However, we know that many of the sceptics will feel it is worth a shot, because the gains can be so big. For the project to really gain momentum still needs a will for the necessary studies to be resourced and happen. Maybe the Prof Gs are cruising for a brusing as many things have to happen before this is truely off the ground. But you heard about it here first!
There is no evidence that HERVs influence vascular alterations, yet trials are beginning to examine this latter idea, so why not take a punt on this new idea, it would be cheaper to do these studies!.
Many years ago it was thought that stomach ulcers were caused by lifestyle and there was this bonkers bloke who said it was a problem of bacteria. The establishment thought he was a nutter, so he infected himself with the bacteria, got an ucler and then treated himself with anti-biotics…Simples. Today we do not think twice about using anti-biotics for ulcers.
Now here is an interesting tit bit.
How many people with MS also have HIV?, the answer seems to be not very many as far as we can tell.
Historically, it was interesting because HIV used to trigger the development of AIDS that resulted in immunosuppression caused by the virus killing off white blood cells. We know that such type of immunosuppression, that can be sort of replicated with drugs such as Alemtuzumab has been shown to halt some aspects of MS.
These days the virus is kept in check by the development of anti-viral agents, so people do not get Immunosuppressed because of the virus, but there are still are not many reports of MSers with HIV. Is the MS diagnosis missed? Do the drugs that stop HIV, stop the triggers of MS? This is one of the aims of the Charcot Project.
If you have HIV and MS or MS then HIV, Prof Gold ( firstname.lastname@example.org) would love to hear from you, in confidence, as you are his Golddust.