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April 26, 1996 - Image 62

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-04-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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`cop-1' Arrests Disease

Impostor
from
Israel
fools
multiple
sclerosis.

RUTH LITTMANN

SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

laude Oster, a doctor
of rehabilitative med-
icine in Southfield,
didn't want to face
the implications of
double-vision and
S1
numbness
he experi-
-v
enced 25 years ago.
The symptoms
ail:. were fleeting —
probably the workings of a sim-
ple, pesky virus or maybe a bout
of the flu.
But, 15 years later, another
episode struck full-force, and this
time, Dr. Oster couldn't ignore
the warning signs. Feeling off-
balance and more numb than be-
fore, the physician could barely
walk.
After a series of tests, his neu-
rologist determined the problem:
multiple sclerosis, better known
as simply MS.
About 350,000 Americans suf-
fer from MS, a chronic and de-
bilitating disease that often forces

its victims into wheelchairs be-
fore middle adulthood.
While nothing is known to cure
MS, researchers in Israel have
formulated an "impostor" protein
— called Copolymer One —
which has been shown to arrest
progression of the disease and en-
able most patients to live healthy,
active, normal lives.
Professor Ruth Arnon, vice
president of the Weizmann In-
stitute of Science in Rehovot, Is-
rael, led the team of scientists
that developed Copolymer One,
called in short, COP-1. Professor
Arnon visited metro Detroit in
mid-April at the behest of Weiz-
mann's local, fund-raising
branch.
The professor's inquiries be-
gan in labs in Israel during the
late 1960s. At the time, MS was
an elusive disorder, often misdi-
agnosed as an optical or psycho-
logical problem.
However, it a lready had been

determined that MS is a type of
"auto-immune" disease. Like col-
itis, Crohn's and other such med-
ical enigmas, MS is characterized
by an immune system that, for
some unknown reason, attacks
the body's own tissues and or-
gans.
Doctors and scientists, mysti-
fied to date, theorized that auto-
immune diseases might begin
with exposure to certain viruses
that invade the body but remain
latent for many years. Symptoms
appear only when unidentified
factors trigger the immune sys-
tem to wage war on the very en-
tities it was designed to protect.
In the case of MS, it targets the
central nervous system. A rela-
tively new diagnostic tool — mag-
netic resonance imaging or MRI
— clearly shows that people suf-
fering from MS develop lesions
in the myelin sheaths around
their nerves. These myelin
sheaths, made of fat and protein,

surround and protect the nerves,
which are essential for proper
ambulation.
Professor Arnon compares the
sheaths to rubber on electrical
wire. Damage the rubber and
you'll have a short-out, she says.
Damage the myelin and, even-
tually, you'll expose the nerve,
which deteriorates along with
motor skills it regulates.
The professor and her team of
Weizmann researchers seized on
well-established facts to devise
their "impostor" protein, COP-1.
When studies began 30 years
ago, they already knew that brain
and spinal cord extracts, when
injected into healthy lab animals,
reacted with the immune system
to produce a condition very, very
similar to MS.
It also had been demonstrat-
ed that a single protein from
these extracts could, alone, in-
duce the disease. They examined
the immunological properties of

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