Study: Simple sugar may restore neurological function in MS patients

September 19, 2023
Researchers have found that a simple sugar, N-acetylglucosamine, reduces several inflammation and neurodegeneration markers in people with multiple sclerosis. In addition, they found this dietary supplement improved neurological function in 30 percent of patients.

According to the World Health Organization, MS affects more than 1.8 million people, and, while there are treatments to prevent relapses and improve quality of life, there is no cure.

A major issue with current therapies in MS is the inability to treat chronic-active neuroinflammation in the brain and the associated failure to repair the loss of myelin that covers and protects axons, the electrical wires of the brain. Over time, this leads to permanent nerve cell damage and slow progressive loss of neurological function in patients.

Researchers at the Demetriou Lab at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine and UCI’s Institute of Clinical and Translational Science found that N-acetylglucosamine was safe to consume and reduced multiple inflammation and neurodegeneration markers in MS patients despite the patients already being on the FDA-approved immunomodulatory therapy glatiramer acetate, known to affect these pathways outside the brain. The data suggest that N-acetylglucosamine reduced untreated chronic-active neuroinflammation and promoted myelin repair. 

However, the researchers stress the trial was nonblinded and therefore future blinded studies and additional parameters are essential to validate N-acetylglucosamine’s potential to improve residual chronic-active brain inflammation, myelin repair, neurodegeneration, and neurological function in MS.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

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