Washington, July 1 : It gives you the much-needed head start in the morning, and now according to a new the research, the hot cup of coffee may help protect against Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
MS is disorder of the central nervous system marked by weakness, numbness, a loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech and bladder control.
The study, co-authored by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Linda Thompson, Ph.D., found that mice immunized to develop an MS-like condition were protected from the disease by drinking caffeine.
In the research, the scientists followed the progress of mice that normally developed an MS-like condition.
The scientists discovered that when the rodents consumed the equivalent of six to eight cups of coffee a day, they did not develop the condition.
The finding could lead to new ways to prevent and treat MS, said Thompson.
According to Thompson, the caffeine stopped adenosine (one of the four building blocks in DNA) from binding to an adenosine receptor in mice.
Adenosine is a common molecule in the human body and plays a vital part in the biochemical processes of sleep, suppression of arousal and energy transfer.
When adenosine could not bind to the receptor, this prevented certain T cells-white blood cells that play a central role in immune responses-from reaching the central nervous system and triggering the cascade of events that lead to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, or EAE, the animal model for the human disease MS.
"This is an exciting and unexpected finding, and I think it could be important for the study of MS and other diseases," said Thompson, who holds the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research at OMRF.
While the results are heartening, Thompson said there is much more work to be done for the prevention of multiple sclerosis in humans.
"A mouse is not a human being, so we can't be sure caffeine will have the same effect on people prone to develop MS without much more testing," Thompson said.
The study is published in the early online edition of the June 30, 2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.