Biogen Idec announced on Thursday that its experimental drug is showing promising results that it can repair optic nerve damage.
The experimental drug called Anti-LINGO-1 is currently tested in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and the optic nerves in the eyes. Patients with this condition often suffer from problems in vision, balance, muscle control and other basic functions.
Acute optic neuritis (ON) is an inflammation of the optic nerve in the eyes associated with MS. Aside from experiencing pain, patients also suffer from temporary vision loss.
The Biogen mid-stage clinical trial involved 82 patients in which 34 percent of those with optic nerve damage showed improvement compared to those treated with placebo. The final results of the study are expected to be released in 2016, Reuters reported.
"This is the first clinical trial to provide evidence of biological repair in the central nervous system by facilitating remyelination following an acute inflammatory injury," Biogen Chief Medical Officer Alfred Sandrock said in a statement.
There is no approved treatment yet for MS, so if this experimental drug will be successful, it will be good news for more than 2.5 million MS patients across the world.
"This is a huge hope," said Tim Coetzee, chief research officer at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, in a telephone interview with Businessweek. "Rebuilding the nervous system is the next frontier of how we tackle treating MS, and for many people who live with MS, strategies like this are a source of hope that they could get some function back."
Biogen's shares jumped by 2 percent after the announcement.