Janet Reed has had Multiple Sclerosis for 33 years. She's among many patients taking part in a study at the University of Rochester Medical Center to see if the drug Aricept can help her memory and concentration. Aricept is already used to treat Alzheimer's patients.
As yet, there is no drug treatment designed to help the memory trouble that comes with MS. Researchers are hopeful that Aricept will be effective in MS patients since the drug boosts the amount of a chemical in the brain called Acetylcholine. MS damage affects the pathways where Acetylcholine is transported through the brain.
Dr. Steve Schwid, a neurologist at the URMC, says "If those pathways are disrupted then the levels of Acetylcholine in the important areas of cognition will be reduced. Anything we can do to improve the availability of Acetylcholine in those area might improve their function."
Before the study, MS patients take memory tests to measure their abilities. After 12 weeks taking Aricept or a placebo, they're tested again. So far, the MS patients have shown substantial improvement, but the results from testing at some 20 medical centers around the country won't be compiled for about two years.