In multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system attacks and damages myelin, which is the insulating layer on nerves in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve. This causes the nerves to short-circuit and cease functioning properly. In “a potential game-changer,” scientists have now demonstrated that a synthetic molecule can restore compromised myelin.
Oregon Health and Science University’s Prof. Tom Scanlan first created the sobetirome molecule over 20 years ago, as a possible means of lowering cholesterol. In 2013, his colleague Dr. Dennis Bourdette suggested that it might also be useful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).
In early lab tests performed on mice that were genetically engineered to have MS-like symptoms, sobetirome was indeed found to repair their damaged myelin. Importantly, it did so without any noteworthy side effects. By contrast, research suggests that experimental thyroid hormone therapy would harm peoples’ heart, bones and skeletal muscle.