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Saturday, July 13, 2013 3:25 AM | Tony Miles Volg link

Excessive sodium in brain could exacerbate MS symptoms(12/07/13)

Sodium “overload” in the brain is one of the major factors to blame for the disabling symptoms of multiple sclerosis, researchers have found.

Pioneering work by scientists at University College London Hospitals shows high sodium levels are a major trigger for nerve cell damage. This damage is a key factor in devastating long-term effects of MS, such as walking difficulties and vision problems.

Experts predict the findings, published today, will lead to new treatments aimed at halting the progression of the disease.

The study, the first of its kind, will bring hope to thousands of people. In particular, it could benefit those with progressive forms of the illness where there is more disability.

Healthy people have normal levels of sodium in their nerve cells. However, the researchers discovered MS patients had above-average levels. This is because the cells are too weak to pump it out quickly enough, leading to a build-up of sodium which then causes long-term damage.

The study was funded by the MS Society and NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre. Dr Susan Kohlhaas, the charity’s head of biomedical research, said: “We urgently need treatments for people with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis and the results of this study, and others funded by the MS Society, open up more options for researchers to investigate potential medicines that could slow or even stop the accumulation of disability.”

Multiple sclerosis affects at least 100,000 people in Britain. It is a condition of the central nervous system, in which the coating around nerve fibres is damaged, causing a range of symptoms. There is no cure. It is normally diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40 and affects almost three times as many women as men.

The researchers used an MRI scanner to assess salt levels in the brains of patients. Ninety-seven people with MS took part in the study.

Dr David Paling, lead author of the study, said scientists would investigate ways of blocking the sodium build-up. “The study is important because it proves sodium accumulation in the nerves affects the progressive nature of the disease,” he said. “We can now move forward to plan trials with medications that prevent sodium from getting into cells and causing damage.

“In addition, we now have an effective test to check if these treatments are working for MS patients, instead of waiting five to 10 years.”

One MS sufferer who took part in the research was Dominic Weaver, 46, from west London. The sound engineer and dubbing mixer for television and film was diagnosed in 2011 and now walks using a stick. He said: “I can still walk but I don’t know if tomorrow I may not be able to get out of bed again. Any treatment which could halt the progression of the disease is a step forward.”

The findings are published this month in the journal Brain.

Source: The Evening Standard © Evening Standard Limited 2013 (12/07/13)