FDA Approved Drug Causes Myelin Regeneration in Multiple Sclerosis

Study identifies drug candidates to promote differentiation and myelin production.

Study identifies drug candidates to promote differentiation and myelin production.

A drug already approved by the FDA to treat an overactive bladder was found to promote the regeneration of myelin in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) during a recent study.

Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study evaluated a method to maintain remyelination after the ability to regenerate myelin typically degenerates during disease progression.

"We have identified a new drug target that promotes stem cell therapy for myelin-based disease, such as MS," lead author Fraser J. Sim, PhD, said in a press release.

The researchers targeted human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells to aid myelination with the anti-muscarinic drug solifenacin, which was previously approved for the treatment of an overactive bladder.

"Our hypothesis is that in MS, the oligodendrocyte progenitor cells seem to get stuck," Dr. Sim said. "When these cells don't mature properly, they don't differentiate into myelinating oligodendrocytes."

The study was the first characterize molecular pathways that control the differentiation of human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, before identifying drug candidates that promote differentiation and myelin production. The researchers found that the activation of the muscarinic type 3 receptor on human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells completely blocked differentiation.

As a result, investigators wondered whether blocking the receptor instead of activating it would boost differentiation. They utilized solifenacin because the bladder muscle contains several muscarinic receptors, according to the study.

"We were excited about this because solifenacin is an approved drug that's already on the market," Dr. Sim added.

The researchers transplanted human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells into mice that could not produce myelin in order to evaluate whether the drug could promote myelin synthesis. The treatment resulted in increased differentiation and myelin synthesis from the transplanted human cells.

Further testing revealed an improvement in the response to auditory signals in mice with transplanted human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells treated with solifenacin.

"We have identified a way to improve human myelination," Dr. Sim concluded.

Because the results of the study were preclinical and there has been no human testing performed, the researchers said they plan to seek funding for a small human trial based on the promising results of the study.