Thursday, April 10, 2008

Starbucks for Mice?

At the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego, it was reported that caffeine may prevent MS – at least it prevents the animal model of MS in mice.

I fear that well-meaning but ill-informed people will read the report and start drinking 6-8 cups of coffee every day. Instead, I hope that people read the entire article, including the caveat by Dr. John Richert, executive vice president of research and clinical programs for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (at the end of the post). Although this experiment was conducted in mice using the animal model of MS (which is not MS), the mechanisms that were discovered may be of significance to MS research in humans. Or not.
Here are the details:

MedicineNet posted an article titled “Food as Medicine?” where they report that:

Caffeine appears to help ward off multiple sclerosis, at least in a preliminary animal study. Mice given caffeine were 75 percent less likely to develop the animal model of MS than those not given it, said study senior author Dr. Margaret Bynoe, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, in Ithaca, N.Y.
"The 25 percent who got it got mild cases," she said, although she noted the research is preliminary and the trials were in mice that had the animal model of MS.

The article continues to explain that:

Caffeine is known to block a compound called adenosine. "Inhibiting adenosine prevents the infiltration of lymphocytes [a type of white blood cell involved in immune system response] into the central nervous system," Bynoe explained. "If the lymphocytes cannot get in, you cannot get the inflammation characteristic of MS. The inflammatory response is what causes the damage to the myelin covering the nerve cells."
Bynoe believes her team is the first to demonstrate this mechanism.
In the animals given caffeine, the equivalent of 6 to 8 cups of coffee a day for humans, "there was a reduction in the inflammation, the pathology, a reduction in the brain pathology," Bynoe said.
Adenosine plays a crucial role in many body processes, including energy transfer, the promotion of sleep and the suppression of arousal. On the cellular level, caffeine can bind to the same receptors as adenosine, preventing the adenosine from attaching to cells in the central nervous system.

The new finding is "certainly deserving of further study," said Dr. John Richert, executive vice president of research and clinical programs for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

But he had a caveat: "It's important to note that EAE [the animal model of MS] is not MS, and many potential treatments that have worked on EAE have not worked on MS."



  1. I agree with you that far too many people will read this and automatically think, "woo hoo, I can drink as much coffee as I want."

    There is a benefit to drinking coffee I have experienced on occassion which may be explained by this research. When I've had trouble with increased hay-fever or other allergies, drinking coffee has lessened the swelling in my nasal passages.

  2. I drink way too much caffeine as it is...but this explains WHY that little, grey tail started to grow out of my behind! LOL

    Linda D. in Seattle

  3. "start drinking 6-8 cups of coffee every day."

    Hrmm ... I already drink 2 pots ... does this mean I need to cut back!?