Sunday, May 11

Research Brings New Hope to Multiple Sclerosis Patients

( - MILWAUKEE, -- Researchers at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center have developed a technique that counteracts an unusual, but serious, side effect from natalizumab (Tysabri(R)), a drug that fights multiple sclerosis (MS).

The side effect is a brain virus called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

"This virus looks like a multiple sclerosis relapse," Dr. Bhupendra Khatri says. "It rapidly destroys the white matter of the brain. Now we know exactly how to respond if this virus emerges."

The response is a series of plasma exchanges that filter the drug out of the blood stream, allowing the immune system to recover and fight the virus.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease where the body's immune system attacks the protective sheath surrounding the nerves. Natalizumab suppresses the immune system to slow or halt the progression of the disease. However, if the patient contracts PML, the immune system is not strong enough to combat the infection, so the drug needs to be removed from the body quickly.

Dr. Khatri, medical director of Aurora's Regional MS Center is lead author of the study published in the Feb. 3 issue of Neurology, the official publication of the American Academy of Neurology.

If something were to go wrong, now there is a demonstrated method to remove the drug from the body and help the patient fight PML," Goodwin says.

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