Background: Accumulating evidence indicates that mitochondrial energy failure is involved in the progressive axonal degeneration in multiple sclerosis (MS). In patients with MS, it has been shown that both levels of N-acetylaspartate (NAA), which is a marker of axonal mitochondrial energy, and cerebral blood flow (CBF) are reduced in cerebral normal appearing white matter (NAWM). The latter is likely due to the vasoconstrictive action of endothelin-1 (ET-1) produced by reactive astrocytes, which is triggered by local proinflammatory cytokines. A preliminary study in patients with MS showed that CBF could be restored to normal values after a single dose of 62.5 mg of the ET-1 antagonist bosentan. Objective: To investigate whether restoring CBF in patients with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) increases levels of NAA in cerebral NAWM and improves clinical symptoms. Methods: 27 RRMS patients were included in a 4 weeks proof-of-concept, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial (ROCHIMS) to investigate whether bosentan 62.5 mg twice daily could increase the NAA/creatine (NAA/Cr) ratio in NAWM of the centrum semiovale. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) assessing CBF and NAA/Cr, and clinical evaluations were performed at baseline and at end of study. Separately from the clinical trial, 10 healthy controls underwent the same baseline multimodal brain MRI protocol as the MS patients. Results: Eleven patients in the bosentan arm and thirteen patients in the placebo arm completed the study. Bosentan did not increase CBF. However, we found that CBF in the patients was not different from that of the healthy controls. There were no effects on NAA levels and clinical symptoms. Conclusions: Our study showed that CBF in RRMS patients is not always decreased and that bosentan has no effect when CBF values are within the normal range. We hypothesize that in our patients there was no significant astrocytic production of ET-1 because they had a mild disease course, with minimal local inflammatory activity. Future studies with bosentan in MS should focus on patients with elevated ET-1 levels in cerebrospinal fluid or blood.
Bibliographical noteCopyright © 2020 Hostenbach, Raeymaekers, Van Schuerbeek, Vanbinst, Cools, De Keyser and D'Haeseleer.
- cerebral blood flow;
- multiple sclerosis
- normal appearing white matter