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Weapon against MS: Transplant drug limits nerve damage

A drug originally devised to prevent immune rejection of organ transplants can lessen relapses in patients with multiple sclerosis, a new study finds.

The drug, called fingolimod, inhibits immune cells from destroying the fatty coatings of nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Damage of such myelin sheaths leads to multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, which include fatigue, balance problems, and loss of muscle control.

Although preliminary, the study is the second piece of welcome news this year for MS patients. Citing new findings (SN: 3/4/06, p. 131: Do Over: New MS drug may be safe after all) of the effectiveness and safety of the drug natalizumab (Tysabri), the Food and Drug Administration in June reinstated it for some MS patients. The agency had approved the drug in 2004, but sales were halted for safety reasons.

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