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Lipoic Acid Therapy Found to Slow Rate of Brain Atrophy

September 19, 2016

Treatment of patients diagnosed with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) with lipoic acid appeared to improve patient’s outcomes, in particular, reducing the rate of brain atrophy, researchers reported here Friday at the Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.

In a small placebo-controlled trial, magnetic resonance imaging revealed a lower rate of whole brain atrophy in the 27 patients with secondary-progressive MS when they were compared with 24 similar patients given placebo, said Rebecca I. Spain, MD, a principal investigator at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

The rate of brain volume decline over time in those who took lipoic acid supplements was 0.22 percent per year compared with 0.65 percent per year in those who were assigned to receive placebo, Dr. Spain said in her platform presentation.

Dr. Spain said lipoic acid, a small molecule antioxidant with multiple biological functions, may have therapeutic potential in several areas, including maintenance of the blood brain barrier, inhibition of inappropriate microglial/macrophage activation, and in support of mitochondrial function and structure.

In the double-blinded pilot trial of lipoic acid, Dr. Spain and colleagues studied 51 people with confirmed secondary-progressive MS for 96 weeks. Patients received either an oral dose of 1,200 mg per day of lipoic acid or placebo. The outcomes were adjusted for age, sex, and duration of MS.

Participants were monitored using yearly magnetic resonance imaging scans to measure whole brain atrophy, atrophy of brain substructures and the spinal cord, atrophy of the retina and macular region in the eye, and by clinical assessment and questionnaires to determine impact on symptoms and quality of life. Eye examinations were also provided at baseline and each year in the trial.

Dr. Spain said that aside from reduction in the rate of brain atrophy there were no other significant differences between the patients on lipoic acid and those on placebo. However, in the Timed 25-Foot Walk Test, patients on lipoic acid completed the task one second faster after treatment, while those on placebo took an average of one second longer to walk that distance.