Multiple Sclerosis Could be Treated with a Surprising Medication

Multiple Sclerosis Could be Treated with a Surprising Medication

An already approved medication used for bladder problems might help to treat multiple sclerosis, according to researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Lead author Fraser J. Sim, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences stated “We have identified a new drug target that promotes stem cell therapy for myelin-based disease, such as MS.”

The research appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience and was funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Kalec Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and the Empire State Stem Cell Fund.

The medication is called solifenacin, which has already been approved by the federal drug administration (FDA) to treat overactive bladder. The drug targets a receptor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, known as the muscarinic receptor. It could also act on cells that remyelinate the nerves of the body. Myelin is the fatty substance that wraps around neurons and is damaged in multiple sclerosis due to an autoimmune attack. Oligodendocytes are specialized cells that produce the myelin.

“Our hypothesis is that in MS, the oligodendrocyte progenitor cells seem to get stuck,” Sim noted. “When these cells don’t mature properly, they don’t differentiate into myelinating oligodendrocytes.”

In the study, Sim and his coworkers studied the molecular pathways that control how oligodendrocyte cells formed. Then they tried to identify drugs that could change how much myelin the oligodendrocytes produce.

They noted that when drugs that bound to the muscarinic type 3 receptor on human oligodendrocyte stem cells were used, this prevented them from becoming oligodendrocytes.

Sim wondered if the opposite effect could also be produced by targeting the same receptor. “So we thought, if we had something that blocks instead of activates this receptor, could we boost differentiation?” Solifenacin, the anti-muscarinic drug for overactive bladder, turned out to be the answer.

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“We were excited about this because solifenacin is an approved drug that’s already on the market,” says Sim.

The scientists studied solifenacin’s effects on transplanted human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells in mice that are genetically altered to lack myelin. Remarkably, more oligodendrocytes and myelin resulted from the solifenacin treatment.

With Richard J. Salvi, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, and director of UB’s Center for Hearing and Deafness, Sim also studied whether the induction of oligodendrocytes and myelin created a functional response.

They found improvement in animals with hearing problems that had received transplants with the human oligodendrocyte progenitor cells treated with solifenacin. This was likely due to improvements in neural connections due to extra myelin produced by the oligodendrocytes.

“We have identified a way to improve human myelination,” says Sim. The researchers plan to further study solifenacin in humans.


  1. Mel Rudd says:

    I am a male, 59 and diagnosed in 12/14 with MS. I would be willing to take this drug in a trial. I have overactive bladder as a symptom of my MS so at the very least maybe it will control that. If it also helps the double vision, drop foot and fatigue would be a bonus.

    • Laura C. says:

      Mel, the brand name for this is Vesicare. You can ask your urologist to prescribe for bladder. I used to be on this and it worked great for my bladder

    • Allan J. Kvasnicka says:

      Just saw your comment about your “drop foot” issue related to MS. My wife has MS and used the “Walk-aide System” (research on Google) for drop foot for a good long time. This is an expensive electronic device that she no longer can use as her mobility has deteriorated as well as incurring a fractured hip. If you would have an interest in this device, please contact me thru this comment section and we’ll figure out how to make contact. Good luck.

        • Allan J. Kvasnicka says:

          Yes, my wife would sell her walk-aide system for $1200.00. We’re in Dallas, TX. Give me a call if you’re interested.

          • april says:

            hey allan im going to call around to see if they can adjust it to fit me.and if i can find someone to do this thanks april

          • Allan J. Kvasnicka says:

            Ok April. Yes,you would need that for sure.

            If you would make contact with me, we could discuss how to find someone that would work with you on those adjustments.

            I would start with your neurologist for a referral if he/she has one. Then the Walk-Aide System folks @ would be another source. We used Hanger Clinic: Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions here in Dallas, TX.

            Good luck and let me know if I can be of any help. You’re welcome to talk with my wife about her use of the Walk-Aide System if you proceed.


    • april says:

      im going to ask my doctor for it i take something for my over active bladder so its on the market so why can we ask are doctors for this

    • Laura says:

      i was diagnosis with primar y MS 5 years ago.. My main issues are cognitive, memory. Blurred vision, fatigue with overexertion and heat or minimal anxiety or stress. My symptoms seem to come and go depending on the circumstances. I try and keep myself in a positive mind frame, exercise seems to help with energy. I don’t feel as my symptoms have progressed very much. I don’t think about the future just enjoy what I can do. I do not drive because the least little surprise in traffic etc. and I do not make good driving judgements. I was running red lights, even after I saw the red light, knew it was red, but my brain didn’t tell me it meant stop!
      Best of luck, laura

  2. Shirley says:

    I have SPMS for going on 28 years. I have been taking VESICARE (solifenacin) for bladder issues since it became available (about 5 or 6 years). Works OK for my bladder but, does nothing else. Another grasping at straws for us desperate victims.

    • Frank DiPasquale says:

      Hi Shirley, how did vesicare help with your bladder problems, urgency or spacing the time between going? thanks Frank

  3. Stacy H. says:

    I was DX’d in 1985, age 25 w/MS. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for MS back – then so “m” and “s” went IMMEDIATELY into my DENIAL FILE! 25 yrs. later, age 50 (2010) – I knew “something” was WRONG — mainly cognitive DYSfunction. Got into UTSouthwestern Dallas’ MS clinic, DX’d immed. w/SPMS – and had a firestorm of active dz going on in my brain. Had to “put the fire out” before I could start the recently approved FIRST ORAL DMD, Gilenya. 1st try) A HEFTY dose of oral steroids, 2nd try) IV steroids that a specialty pharmacy mixed into a drinkable “cocktail” (think Drain-O) & then – 3rd try – 7 rounds of plasma apheresis — which worked! Started on Gilenya 11/2010 – and have had NO adverse side effects, dz activity or progression! It’s original formulation was for RRMS – but so far, it’s stopped further progression of SPMS. With that said – I do have “innumerable” brain lesions and thinning of the corpus callosum (major cog dysfunction at times, walking difficulty, bladder issues, major fatigue) which are collateral damage due to so many years spent in DENIAL!

  4. John says:

    I was diagnosed in 2009 with relapsing remiting MS. Although my first symptoms started started in 2005 with blurred double vision, the went to pins and needles from the bottom of both of my feet to my hips and it stayed there for 3 year’s. Solumedrol does help to take away the inclination.

    I have been on a number of different new medications with no help. I am willing to try anything at this point, I, my wfr and our kids are looking very much forward to a cure.

  5. victor mitchell says:

    I was diagnosed in 2007. Very scared at first but after getting on medication I’ve learned to live with it. Its tough but you have to keep a positive attitude. Easier said than done sometimes but you have to keep going. MS doesn’t have to define who you are.

  6. K Ford says:

    I was diagnosed in 2008 by biggest problem is my balance to walk. I use a walker to walk. Does you know how retrieve my balance to walk??

  7. The best current help for MS is HSCT. I went to The Philippines in January and had this treatment. The biggest claim is that it stops disease progression. I have had MS, am SPMS. I have been told I can look for improvements over the next 2 years. I am a solid 6 EDSS and hoping to stay here or improve.There are several closed groups on FB. Just ask to join one and read read read!! And don’t be fooled by imposters, NO CHEMO NO CURE!!

  8. Roberto says:

    My name is Roberto and I suffer of multiple sclerosis , was diagnosed in june of 2011 and since then I’m having the problems mentioned on this by other people who have the same situation , I have taken solumedrol, techfidera ,avonex wich was an inyectable one. Now i’m in chemotherapy treatment of cladribine and though some of the problems have being control I still drope my feet and my balance continues to be problematic. Is there a problem with the treatment I’m taking or should I talk to my doctor about the results and if a change is necessary. I now you guys are not my doctors but I’m looking for a second opinion ,thank you regards from Quebec Canada Roberto.

  9. Ed Lee says:

    Diagnosed two years ago after waking one morning with numbness in hands and loss of dexterity. Started with Avonex, but over time begin to effect mental state. Side effects kept me on roller coaster. I’m taking Gilenya now with no noticeable side effects. Condition reasonably stable except for a recent ‘flair’ requiring steroids to suppress. With colder weather setting in I have experienced a new symptom. My index finger and thumb on right hand quickly loses circulation after 3 to 5 minutes in the cold. They begin to turn white with great discomfort. Understand also referred to as Rhenoid syndrome. Has anyone else experienced circulatory problems specifically related to exposure to cold?

    • M McLane says:

      I have not, but if you want to research it further the correct spelling is “Raynaud syndrome”. Hope that is helpful for you.

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