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Red Wine Antioxidant May Worsen Multiple Sclerosis

Update Date: Oct 01, 2013 12:56 PM EDT

Resveratrol, a polyphenol compound in red wine, has been touted as a beneficial supplement for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Previous studies revealed that the compound helps prevent disease, lower blood sugar and lower inflammation.  However, a new study reveals that resveratrol may actually worsen multiple sclerosis-like neuropathology and inflammation.

"Resveratrol may have detrimental effects in some disease conditions and should be discouraged for supplemental use by MS patients pending further research," lead investigator Ikuo Tsunoda, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Center for Molecular & Tumor Virology of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA, said in a news release.

The latest study involved autoimmune and viral mice models of multiple sclerosis. In the autoimmune model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) was induced in 6-week-old mice using myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)35-55 peptide.

The animals were fed either a control diet or a diet containing resveratrol for two months or only during the early or late phases of EAE.

All groups started developing clinical signs like tail and hind limb paralysis around 12 days after MOG sensitization, and symptoms worsened and peaked by three weeks.

Researchers found that mice fed a control diet showed either complete recovery or mild paralysis after five weeks. However, mice fed resveratrol exhibited severe and lasting EAE without remission.

Mice given resveratrol during the early phase showed higher pathology scores in demyelination, meningitis, perivascular cuffing (inflammation) in spinal cord neuropathology scores and overall pathology compared to with mice fed a control diet. Mice treated with resveratrol during the entire treatment period had significantly higher pathology scores in meningitis and overall pathology than controls. However, the resveratrol groups did not differ in brain pathology scores.

While it has been suggested that resveratrol has anti-inflammatory properties, the latest study showed that resveratrol did not suppress autoimmune responses as measured by levels of MOG35-55-specific lymphoproliferative responses and pro-inflammatory cytokine production.

To find out if resveratrol had anti-viral properties, researchers fed mice that were infected intracerebrally with the Daniels (DA) strain of Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus with either a control diet or one containing resveratrol from days 35 to 48. Researchers found that mice treated with resveratrol developed significantly more severe TMEV-IDD compared with the controls.

"Resveratrol did not show anti-viral effects in TMEV infection," Tsunoda explained.

"Our findings illustrate that caution should be exercised for potential therapeutic application of resveratrol in human inflammatory demyelination diseases, including MS," Tsunoda concluded.

The findings are published in the American Journal of Pathology

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