Researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Medicine say they conducted a small, double-blind clinical trial involving patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. The patients were assigned to take pioglitazone -- a type 2 diabetes drug commercially known as Actos -- or a placebo. Patients continued their normal course of therapy during the trial.
The scientists said patients taking pioglitazone showed significantly less loss of gray matter during the course of the one-year trial than patients taking placebo. Of the 21 patients who finished the study, patients taking pioglitazone had no adverse reactions.
"This is very encouraging," said Professor Douglas Feinstein. "Gray matter in the brain is the part that is rich in neurons. These preliminary results suggest the drug has important effects on neuronal survival."
The scientists also tested pioglitazone in an animal model of MS and found the drug "can significantly reduce the clinical signs in mice with an MS-type disease," said Feinstein.
"More importantly, when mice who are already ill are treated with pioglitazone, the clinical signs of the disease go away," he said.
The study is reported in the online edition of the Journal of Neuroimmunology.