A recent study has revealed that vitamin shots may be beneficial in preventing severe long-term disability in multiple sclerosis patients.
Presently there exists no effective treatment for the chronic progressive phase of MS, when serious disability is most likely to appear.
The Children's Hospital Boston study appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience, and conducted in mice showed that giving them a type of vitamin B3 known as nicotinamide cut the risk of nerve degeneration in mice with MS-type symptoms.
Patients usually develop a form of the disease called relapsing-remitting MS, where outs of illness are followed by complete or partial recovery during which stage anti-inflammatory drugs can help.
However this stage is often followed by the chronic progressive phase, at which stage no effective treatment has been found.
The Boston team worked on mice with an MS-like disease called experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE).
The study revealed that daily nicotinamide shots protected the animals' nerve cells from myelin loss, stabilizing the condition of those cells that had already been affected. It was found that the greater the dose of nicotinamide, the greater the protective effect.
Rating disability on a scale of one to five, mice receiving the highest doses of nicotinamide scored between one and two, while animals who received no shots at all scored between three and four.
It was found that nicotinamide boosted levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a vital chemical, in the animals' nervous systems.
In addition Nicotinamide also significantly reduced neurological deficits even when treatment was delayed until 10 days after the induction of EAE - raising hope that it will also be effective in the later stages of MS. Lead researcher Dr Shinjiro Kaneko said: "The earlier therapy was started, the better the effect, but we hope nicotinamide can help patients who are already in the chronic stage."
According to the researchers nicotinamide was cheap, and was considered to have few side effects. However, they said further work was needed to test its effect on humans.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the MS Society, said: "Any potential treatment for reducing the chronic progression of disability in MS deserves pursuing.
"This is interesting early research which we should like to see developed, adding our usual caution that what works in mice does not always work in men."
A spokesperson for the MS Trust said: "These are interesting results, but studies in mice with the experimental equivalent of MS may not necessarily translate into a successful treatment for people with MS."
Vitamin shots may help protect multiple sclerosis patients from severe long-term disability, a study suggests.
Currently, there is no effective treatment for the chronic progressive phase of MS, when serious disability is most likely to appear.