Public Release:  LA BioMed to study vitamin A's potential benefits for multiple sclerosis patients

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awards $900,000 grant for research

Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed)

LOS ANGELES (Jan. 6, 2014) - Some 2.5 million people around the world have multiple sclerosis (MS), a potentially debilitating disease in which the body's immune system destroys the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerves.

This damage interferes with the communication between the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body, causing symptoms that can range from a mild weakness to an inability to walk or speak clearly. There is no cure for MS, but there are some preliminary data showing that Vitamin D, retinoic acid or Vitamin A, may help alleviate these symptoms.

To determine if Vitamin A could help, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation recently awarded the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) a $900,000 grant to study the role of serum Vitamin A in halting - or at least slowing - disease progression in people with Relapsing-Remitting MS. About 80% of MS patients have Relapsing-Remitting MS, in which new symptoms flare up and then go into remission.

"This grant will jump start this area of research in the United States," said Bijal Mehta, MD, MPH, the lead researcher for the LA BioMed study into Vitamin A. "This will be the first large-scale study of whether higher levels of Vitamin A in the bloodstream may lead to improved outcomes for people who have Relapsing-Remitting MS. If the study finds MS patients with higher levels of Vitamin A have reduced progression of the disease, we could then examine using Vitamin A as an additional treatment."

LA BioMed researchers plan to recruit 100 volunteers with Relapsing-Remitting MS to measure the Vitamin A levels in their blood. The researchers also will study Vitamin A's role in promoting repair to the myelin sheaths, which cover the nerves, a process known as remyelination. The research will examine Vitamin A's effectiveness in correlation with two commonly used MS medications: interferon-beta (Avonex, Rebif and Betaseron) or glatimer acetate (Copaxone). For more information, please email VitaminAstudy@gmail.com.

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About LA BioMed

Founded in 1952, LA BioMed is one of the country's leading nonprofit independent biomedical research institutes. It has approximately 100 principal researchers conducting studies into improved treatments and therapies for cancer, inherited diseases, infectious diseases, illnesses caused by environmental factors and more. It also educates young scientists and provides community services, including prenatal counseling and childhood nutrition programs. LA BioMed is academically affiliated with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and located on the campus of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. For more information, please visit http://www.LABioMed.org

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is a family foundation established in 1944 by the man who started Hilton Hotels. It provides funds to nonprofit organizations working to improve the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people throughout the world. http://www.hiltonfoundation.org

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