Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms. One of these treatments may be a certain type of estrogen.
The human body produces three types of estrogen: estrone, estradiol and estriol. The rate of MS relapse is known to decrease during pregnancy, when estriol levels are increased. Following up on this data, a new study out of the University of California School of Medicine has found that estriol may be a promising treatment to reduce the rate of relapse in multiple sclerosis .
In this study, 83 patients received 8mg of oral estriol daily and 81 patients received placebo (“sugar pill”) combined with a drug used to treat MS (glatiramer). The rate of MS relapse de-creased 33% in the estriol group compared with the placebo group. The rate of adverse events did not substantially differ between the groups. No differences were found in fibrocystic breast disease, uterine fibroids or endometrial lining thickness as assessed by clinic exam, mammo-gram, uterine ultrasound or endometrial lining biopsy between the two group.
The researchers concluded that further investigation was warranted in a phase 3 clinical trial.
Voskuhl RR, Wang H, Wu TCJ, et al. Estriol combined with glatiramer acetate for women with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial. Lancet Neurol. 2015; doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(15)