When a new drug comes onto the market it is developed and approved for a single indication or disease state. Yet, over time, as the drug is used and its safety, tolerability and efficacy are proven, doctors “thinking outside of the box” will often use the same medication for an entirely different indication. For example, several antiseizure medications are used for pain control and for treatment of psychiatric disorders. Medications developed for blood pressure control are used to control migraine headaches. The success is often rooted in common causes underlying the different diseases. Sometimes the pharma companies will seek new approval based on new testing for the different patient population, and sometimes doctors will use them off-label, even as they become standard-of-care for different indications.
Treatment of disease in the nervous system are no different. Although the nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves (nerves that have already left the spinal cord), many different ailments can attack it. This can require entirely different treatment approaches. For example, brain tumors, seizures, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s disease all affect the nervous system but through different mechanisms, therefore requiring different medical therapy. Some diseases are neurodegenerative, some are immunologic, some are cancererous, and some are due to physical damage to the brain.
A recent article published in a Lancet Discovery Science Series (Zhihui, et al, 2023) described that a proven, existing multiple sclerosis medication shows promise in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is believed to be caused by attacks by the immune systems and the medication works by reducing neuroinflammation. Like MS, neuroinflammation is thought to be a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Inflammatory processes in the brain can result in the release of toxic proteins. The MS drug Ponesimod works on one type of brain cells-the microglia cells- to program them to clear toxins. These researchers tested mice and examined human brain samples. What they found was groundbreaking-that ponesimod not only reduces neuroinflammation but also improves memory. The dysfunctional microglial cells targeted by ponesimod have been linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, as these neurodegenerative disorders are often characterized by the abnormal protein deposits in the brain. These proteins interfere with the communication between the various brain cells. By clearing the proteins from the brain, the process is halted and potentially reversed.
Fortunately, the treatment of what was once thought untreatable diseases is advancing at a rapid clip due to a greater understanding of the disease process. Yet, patients can only benefit from these advances if their symptoms are detected, and a diagnosis is found. BeCareLink can help as a screening tool for all neurologic disorders through its new app called BeCare Neuro Link which is a quantitative measurement of all parts of the nervous systems. We can help determine if there is a problem, such as early Alzheimer’s disease or MS, to help facilitate the diagnosis by your physician. If the diagnosis is made, we can help monitor your response to your therapy to optimize you medical care.