Cinnamon May Slow MS Progression

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CHICAGO—A Rush University Medical Center neurological scientist has been awarded a 2-year $750,000 NIH grant to study whether at cinnamon may stop the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). The findings may lead to natural, dietary interventions to treating MS symptoms.

Interferon-B, Copaxone and Tysabri are currently used to treat MS symptoms; however, they are expensive, have many side effects, and are only 30% to 40% effective in patients. “If our study is successful, there may be a day when just a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon per day with milk, tea or honey, may help MS patients manage the disease process and significantly cut down the drug cost drastically to $10 per month per patient," Pahan said.

“Since medieval times, physicians have used cinnamon to treat a variety of disorders including arthritis, coughing and sore throats," said Kalipada Pahan, PhD.,  a Floyd A. Davis professor of neurology at Rush and principal investigator of the study. “Our initial findings in mice indicate that cinnamon may also help those suffering from MS."

Glial cell activation in the brain has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and MS. Activated glial cells accumulate and secrete different neurotoxin factors that cause various autoimmune responses that lead to brain injury. Pahan said the autoimmune reactions in the brain ultimately kill oligodendrocytes, which are a certain type of brain cell that protects the nerve cells and myelin sheath; however, cinnamon has an anti-inflammatory property to counteract and inhibit the glial activation that causes brain cell death.

Previous studies conducted by Pahan and published in past issues of the Journal of Immunology have shown that sodium benzoate, which is a metabolite of cinnamon, can inhibit the expression of various pro-inflammatory molecules in brain cells and block the disease process of MS in mice.

Different doses of sodium benzoate were mixed into drinking water since it is highly soluble and non-toxic, and administered to the mice. Sodium benzoate suppressed the MS clinical score by more than 70 percent and inhibited incidence of MS by 100 percent in the animal model.

A 2010 study conducted by scientist at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found cinnamon extract might prevent brain cells from swelling after traumatic brain injury and stroke. The scientists used isolated glial cells and put them in a culture solution. When the cell cultures were deprived of oxygen and glucose for five hours, the researchers measured the function of the mitochondrial inner membrane in the glial cells. They found a nearly 40 percent decline in the mitochondrial membrane potential due to the lack of oxygen and glucose. The researchers then exposed some of the cells to a cinnamon extract, while other cells served as “nonexposed" controls. The reduction in the membrane potential was alleviated in the presence of the cinnamon extract. Ninety minutes later, the researchers measured volume of the glial cells. They found that cell volume among the oxygen- and glucose-deprived cells had increased by more than 34 percent.

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