"Good Cholesterol" May Help Decrease MS Inflammation, Lessen Disability

By Christine Vidal

Release Date: April 28, 2009 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Could HDL, the "good cholesterol," have the same protective effect in multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory disease of the brain's white matter, as it does in heart disease, through its anti-inflammatory effects on blood vessels?

The answer may be yes, based on results of research conducted at the University at Buffalo and presented today (Tuesday, April 28) in a poster session at the American Association of Neurology meeting in Seattle, Wash.

Allison S. Drake, MSc, a researcher in the Jacobs Neurological Institute (JNI), UB's Department of Neurology, is first author on the study.

Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, M.D., UB associate professor of neurology and director of the JNI's Baird Multiple Sclerosis Center, initiated and oversaw the research.

"We set out to evaluate the relationship between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels and disability in patients with MS," said Drake. "The protective effects of HDL in cardiovascular disease have been well established, but the role of HDL in MS had not been investigated.

"We found that patients with greater disability (assessed using the physician-reported Expanded Disability Severity Score, EDSS) were more likely to have low HDL blood levels, while those with less disability had higher HDL levels," said Drake, "demonstrating a significant association between HDL level and disability.

"While it appears that the anti-inflammatory effect of high HDL may be protective in patients with MS, further studies on the relationship between HDL levels, disease modifying therapy and MS disease progression are warranted," she noted.

The study involved 186 MS patients with average age of 50 who were enrolled in the New York State Multiple Sclerosis Consortium, an alliance of treatment centers throughout the state organized to assess prospectively the clinical characteristics of MS patients. The JNI is the lead site.

Drake and colleagues had access to the patient's clinical information and HDL levels that were collected when participants entered into the study, and compared that data with measures of disability after an average of 5 years. Patients were classified as having an HDL level of 40 or less, the low level, or 60 or above, the high level, when they were enrolled in the study. (HDL is measured in milligrams-per-deciliter, or mg/dL).

Results showed that the degree of disability at baseline was significantly associated with HDL level. Specifically, participants with higher EDSS scores at baseline, indicating more disability, were more likely to have lower HDL levels than participants with less disability.

Additional contributors to the study were Arielle Kurzweil, Murali Ramanathan, Barbara Teter, Terry Justinger, Frederick E. Munschauer and Cornelia Mihai, all from the JNI/UB.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.