Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune mediated disease of the central nervous system that affects over 350,000 Americans. T lymphocytes, macrophages and soluble mediators of inflammation cause demyelination and axonal injury in MS. Activated macrophages release nitric oxide and oxygen free radicals that cause demyelination and axonal injury in MS and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Natural antioxidants may favorably influence the course of MS by decreasing oxidative injury. Chronic relapsing EAE in mouse models is clinically and pathologically useful for testing potential therapies for MS.
This study will assess three natural antioxidant regimens for their potential as treatments for MS: Ginkgo biloba, alpha-lipoic acid/essential fatty acids, and vitamin E/selenium. The effects of each regimen will be compared to determine which regimen appears most effective at suppressing EAE and decreasing markers of oxidative injury in patients with MS. As part of this study, two smaller trials will be conducted. A Phase I/II trial in patients with MS will determine if the selected antioxidant regimen can decrease disease activity as detected with gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. The results of this study will serve as the basis for a Phase III trial to assess the long term effectiveness of natural antioxidant therapy in MS.