New multiple sclerosis drugs are found

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They prevent the disease in mice

Five years ago, scientists at Harvard University began to take a close look at Copolymer 1, a treatment for multiple sclerosis, that is put together from a string of amino acids, or protein pieces, assembled in random order. “We wanted to determine if there are one or two active compounds within the random Copolymer 1 mixture that we could isolate and use to produce a more effective drug,” says Jack L. Strominger, Higgins Professor of Biochemistry, who leads the effort. “That turned out not to be the case.” However, chemical juggling of the protein pieces led to four novel copolymers that are more potent than Copolymer 1. Two of them look especially promising, and Strominger’s team injected them into mice with a nervous system disease similar to human MS. Animals that didn’t get the drugs died in less than two weeks. Those who received the two new copolymers never developed the MS-like malady. “The new drugs prevented it entirely,” Strominger says triumphantly. “It was a eureka moment!” Strominger’s group described its work in the June 15, 2002, issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.