Asthma drug helps regenerate myelin

A new study on mice has found a drug called theophylline, which is used to treat respiratory diseases helps regenerate myelin. In multiple sclerosis (MS), the immune system attacks and damages the myelin sheath which protects the nerves.

Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland identified a protein which, when activated by a process called acetylation, prevents the remyelination process in the body. They discovered that if this protein is deactivated by a process called deacetylation, the body can rebuild myelin sheaths.

An enzyme called histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) deactivates the protein, and scientists used theophylline to boost the synthesis of HDAC2 and its activity in cells.

In the mouse model, using the drug over four days resulted in significant restoration of myelin sheaths, especially in the peripheral nervous system. The researchers said that a low dose of theophylline was enough to trigger improvements.

Funding for human clinical trials is now being sought.