Multiple sclerosis leads to neurodegeneration as the structural correlate of functional impairment. Available therapies target the immune response, but exert only limited direct neuroprotection. Optic neuritis is one of the most frequent manifestations of multiple sclerosis and leads to optic atrophy, which is – including other causative diseases – the second-most common cause of blindness in Germany. Various substances, interfering with pathways related to apoptosis and regeneration, protect retinal ganglion cells from programmed cell death. Among these, erythropoietin is one of the most potent drugs, mediating neuroprotection by activation of the intracellular Jak2/STAT3- and PI3K/Akt-pathways. In a recent pilot trial, we have demonstrated that erythropoietin is safe and efficacious in preserving retinal ganglion cell axons after optic neuritis. Hence, we plan to administer erythropoietin intravenously to patients with optic neuritis and to evaluate its effect on visual function and retinal nerve fibre layer preservation in a prospective, double blind, placebo-controlled, and adequately powered multicentre phase III trial.
Please contact Prof. W. Lagrèze for further information