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Caffeine Protects Mice from MS-like Disease, But More Research Required to Translate Results to People

Jul 09, 2008

Caffeine Protects Mice from MS-like Disease, But More Research Required to Translate Results to People

Researchers report that administering caffeine – the equivalent of six to eight cups of coffee per day – to a small number of mice protected them from developing the MS-like disease EAE. These effects are attributed to caffeine’s ability to prevent the molecule “adenosine” from stimulating the immune attack that occurs in EAE and MS. Postdoctoral associate Jeffrey H. Mills (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY) and colleagues report their findings in the early online edition of the June 30, 2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is important to note that excessive use of caffeine can lead to adverse reactions, and that much further research is required to determine the value of these findings to people.

Background:

Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. Adenosine, one of the building blocks that comprises DNA, has been shown to regulate the movement of immune cells. Dr. Mills and colleagues sought to determine whether blocking the ability of adenosine to bind to a docking site on immune cells would affect their entry into the brain during EAE. Caffeine is known to block adenosine.

The Study/Results:

The team administered 4.0 mg of caffeine to five mice (the equivalent of six to eight cups of coffee per day in humans) daily. Five other mice received drinking water alone. After 30 days, EAE was induced. Mice that received caffeine were protected from developing the disease, as immune cells were prevented from entering the brain.

“This is an interesting finding that gives us one more clue toward how to stop the immune attack that occurs in MS,” says John Richert, Executive Vice President of the National MS Society’s Research & Clinical Programs Department. “But it is not clear that caffeine would block all immune cell trafficking into the brain and spinal cord. In addition, it is important to note that excessive use of caffeine can lead to a number of adverse reactions, including restless sleep and increased anxiety, so these results require much further study to understand how to achieve this effectiveness in people without incurring adverse effects.”