University of Tokushima researchers have discovered that methylcobalamin, a type of vitamin B12, could slow the progress of Lou Gehrig’s disease, a neurodegenerative illness.
Researchers say methylcobalamin treatment could prolong the life of people with severe cases of the disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The group of researchers, led by Ryuji Kaji, a professor of neurology at the school, plans to present the results Thursday at a meeting of the Japanese Society of Neurology in Yokohama.
According to Yuishin Izumi, a researcher involved in the project, 18 people with ALS were injected with a large amount of methylcobalamin. Eleven of those remained alive, without the help of respiratory aid, from one year to three years and seven months after the treatment.
By contrast, another 16 people with ALS who received no methylcobalamin all died within half a year and two years and eight months.
The results of the experiment were verified in October.
ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing sufferers to eventually lose control of muscle movement and become paralyzed.
Kaji stressed that the results of the tests are only preliminary and more rigorous clinical studies are needed before a medical treatment can be developed.
“We would like to verify the results through large-scale clinical testing to be conducted with other medical institutions,” Kaji said. “We are also looking for pharmaceutical companies interested in our research.”
Shigeki Kuzuhara, a professor of neurology at the University of Mie, said the Kaji group’s work could be “good news” for people with fast-progressing cases of ALS.
Kuzuhara said methylcobalamin treatment would have few side effects and he is awaiting further clinical tests to prove its effectiveness.