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Serendipity Points Way to Possible Link Between Blood Pressure Drug Lisinopril and Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis


A Computer Glitch Results in A Serendipitous Finding that May Help People With Multiple Sclerosis

A theme that has been mentioned several times on Purple Medical Blog is that researchers are investigating the idea that some common medicines used for one thing may in fact have powers to treat other medical problems. Think about it, it makes sense, we speak of "stomach medicine" or "brain medicine" as if they were mutually exclusive but they aren't. The biological pathways extend all around our bodies and don't necessarily stop at the borders we imagine for them. The H2 Receptor drugs that treat ulcer interact with so called H2 receptors in the stomach but can also cross the blood brain barrier and interact with H2 receptors in your brain.

Dr. Lawrence Steinman, a renowned scientist at Stanford,(Immunologist and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Pediatrics, and Genetics at Stanford University in California) was quoted in a recent interview "Take a drug such as the common antihypertensive agent (blood pressure pill) lisinopril. We give it to experimental animals that have the model disease that resembles multiple sclerosis , and the paralysis goes away after several doses. We learn from studying these animals that various inflammatory pathways are suppressed". (see below link "Recycled Meds and New Approaches in Multiple Sclerosis")

Though animal studies may point to something useful for humans that is only true sometimes. That's why a lot more work is being done to determine if there is any usefulness for lisinopril for multiple sclerosis. He speaks about a model disease in animals which resembles multiple sclerosis. Also,lisinopril while safe for many people with high blood pressure when used properly is not for everybody, lisinopril like the class of ace inhibitors it belongs to is NOT allowed for anyone who is or could be pregnant because of teratogenic (harmful to fetus) concerns.

The story of how Dr. Steinman got on the trail of lisinopril as a possible help for multiple sclerosis is a fascinating story in itself. "The genesis for the paper can be traced to about seven years ago, when Steinman learned he had high blood pressure. His doctor put him on lisinopril, which is used by millions of people all over the world and has an excellent safety profile. Chagrined, Steinman went home and, researcher that he is, immediately did a Google search on the drug. (Steinman's earlier work on the inflammatory features of the disease spurred development of a blockbuster class of anti-inflammatory multiple-sclerosis therapeutics. The drug natalizumab, marketed under the trade name Tysabri, is one)".

"Long ago, a glitch crept into Steinman’s home computer: No matter what keywords he types into the search field, the computer automatically inserts the additional term, “multiple sclerosis.” Thus, to his surprise, a list of medical literature popped up offering tantalizing, if vague, hints of a possible connection between multiple sclerosis and a fast-acting hormone, angiotensin, whose receptors abound on blood-vessel walls throughout the body."

This is an example of serendipity in science and medicine, something that happens more than you might think.

Lisinopril and the class it belongs to, ACE inhibitors, is one of the favorite heart and blood pressure drugs of cardiologists and family practioners. Angiotension Converting Enzyme (see why they call them ACE?) inhibitors seem to have added beneficial side effects like heart remodeling.

PNAS (Proceedings National Academy of Science)previously carried a paper about the possibility that the blood pressure drug might have the power to treat multiple sclerosis symptoms. The paper showed an effect in mice with MS like disease. "Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found a link, in mice and in human brain tissue, between high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis. Their findings suggest that a safe,(when used properly) inexpensive drug already in wide use for high blood pressure may have therapeutic value in multiple sclerosis, as well".

  • Recycled Meds and New Approaches in Multiple Sclerosis

  • Inexpensive hypertension drug could be multiple sclerosis treatment, study shows
  • Blocking angiotensin-converting enzyme induces potent regulatory T cells and modulates TH1- and TH17-mediated autoimmunity
  • Steinman Lab page