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More MS news articles for July 2003

The role of nitric oxide in multiple sclerosis

Lancet Neurol. 2002 Aug 1;1(4):232-41
Smith KJ, Lassmann H.
Neuroinflammation Research Group, at the Guy's, King's, and St Thomas' School of Medicine, King's College, SE1 1UL, London, UK

Nitric oxide (NO) is a free radical found at higher than normal concentrations within inflammatory multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions.

These high concentrations are due to the appearance of the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in cells such as macrophages and astrocytes.

Indeed, the concentrations of markers of NO production (eg, nitrate and nitrite) are raised in the CSF, blood, and urine of patients with MS.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that NO has a role in several features of the disease, including disruption of the blood-brain barrier, oligodendrocyte injury and demyelination, axonal degeneration, and that it contributes to the loss of function by impairment of axonal conduction.

However, despite these considerations, the net effect of NO production in MS is not necessarily deleterious because it also has several beneficial immunomodulatory effects.

These dual effects may help to explain why iNOS inhibition has not provided reliable and encouraging results in animal models of MS, but alternative approaches based on the inhibition of superoxide production, partial sodium-channel blockade, or the replacement of lost immunomodulatory function, may prove beneficial.