10/15/2006 5:55 AM
By: Ivanhoe Newswire
LOS ANGELES -- About half a million Americans are living with multiple sclerosis, a serious disease where the body attacks the nervous system. It's about three-times more common in women, but men can also get MS. Now, a new treatment could help men with the disease feel better and stay more alert.
Jeffrey Steenberg loves the outdoors, whether it's jogging or caring for his homemade garden. But when doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis four years ago, even the simple tasks became exhausting. "Just finding myself extremely tired a lot," he says. "I couldn't make it through a day without napping."
And like about half of all MS patients, Steenberg also had memory problems. He says, "I definitely noticed some of the memory going -- calling somebody immediately after calling them and not knowing who was on the phone anymore."
Neurologist Rhonda Voskuhl, M.D., of the UCLA School of Medicine, says there's no treatment to protect patients from memory failure. "What we don't have are drugs that would be going to the brain or spinal cord and protecting those nerves," she explained.
Now, testosterone gel may do just that. In a small study, 10 men with MS applied it to their shoulders once a day for a year.
"What they reported most is that they felt better -- that they had more energy and less fatigue," Dr. Voskuhl says. The gel improved their immune systems and all the patients performed better on memory tests.
MRI scans also showed parts of the brain that normally decline in MS actually slowed.
"We're excited about these findings because we're actually would be describing the first neural protective drugs for MS," Dr. Voskuhl says.
She says researchers would most likely use an estrogen to treat women in the future. The next step is a larger clinical trial involving more men. If the gel proves to improve memory, it could also be used on patients with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. A side effect of testosterone is it can worsen prostate cancer in patients who already have it.
Jeffrey noticed a positive difference. He says, "The increased energy and mental alertness were the biggest changes for me."
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