Aug. 17, 2009 -- A drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure may also double as a multiple sclerosis treatment.
A new study shows the inexpensive blood pressure drug lisinopril blocked development of multiple sclerosis in laboratory mice bred to develop the disease. And when the drug was given to mice with full-blown symptoms of multiple sclerosis, it reversed their paralysis without affecting their overall immunity.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease in which the body's immune system malfunctions and can eventually lead to paralysis or even death. The disease is difficult to treat without compromising normal immune function and protection.
But researcher Lawrence Steinman, MD, of Stanford University says multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure both involve inflammatory processes that may benefit from treatment with lisinopril. If future studies confirm these results, lisinopril may provide a less expensive treatment alternative for multiple sclerosis.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined the effects of treatment with lisinopril in mice bred to develop brain lesions similar to those found in people with multiple sclerosis after being given a disease-triggering chemical.
Researchers treated the mice with the equivalent dose of lisinopril used to treat people with high blood pressure before and after the disease-triggering injection.
The results showed mice treated with lisinopril before the injection did not develop the paralysis related to MS. And those treated after the injection experienced a reversal of their paralysis.
Researchers also found treatment with lisinopril reduced a number of inflammation markers that accompany multiple sclerosis without affecting overall immune function.
In addition, the study showed lisinopril treatment spurred proliferation of an important class of immune cells known as regulatory T cells that help prevent immune diseases.
Steinman says it's likely this proliferation is a key factor in protecting the mice against multiple sclerosis and offers a new avenue for future research in multiple sclerosis treatment.
"We were able to show that all the targets for lisinopril are there and ready for therapeutic manipulation in the multiple-sclerosis lesions of human patients," says Steinman, in a news release. "Without that, this would be just another intriguing paper about what's possible in the mouse."
Steinman and authors Michael Platten, MD, and Sawsan Youssef, PhD call for more studies to investigate the potential use of drugs like lisinopril for treatment of MS.