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Four decades since they serendipitously discovered the effects of low dose naltrexone (LDN), dedicated Penn State University researchers demonstrate the biological mechanism through which LDN helps relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

For almost four decades, Drs. Zagon & McLaughlin have been diligently studying the effects of the body’s self-produced opioids (known as endorphins) on a wide range of diseases. In 1980 they serendipitously discovered the paradoxical effect of low dose naltrexone (LDN) in stimulating the body’s natural production of endorphins. At the time, they couldn’t imagine the impact this discovery would eventually make on the lives of so many patients.

Drs. Ian Zagon and Pat McLaughlin are two scientists who modestly shy away from the limelight. Yet their lifetime of work and innovative discoveries have brought relief to hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide. Their latest discovery solves the mystery of how LDN fights multiple sclerosis.

The discovery that LDN raises OGF levels, created the possibility of achieving therapeutic effects in multiple diseases, using a low cost, widely available drug.

Dr. Ian S. ZagonDr. Ian S. Zagon

Soon thereafter, Drs. Zagon & McLaughlin isolated the key endorphin - which they named OGF (Opioid Growth Factor or [Met5]-enkephalin) - that is responsible for the healing effects of LDN. They have spent over 30 years studying the effect of OGF in different diseases, even carrying out clinical trials using OGF to successfully treat patients with pancreatic and liver cancers. The discovery that LDN raises OGF levels, meant that one could possibly achieve therapeutic effects in multiple diseases, using a low cost, widely available drug.

Dr. Patricia J. McLaughlinDr. Patricia J. McLaughlin

Meanwhile, their discovery in 1980 did not go unnoticed. Dr. Bernard Bihari, a Harvard-trained physician working in New York, began prescribing LDN for his patients, and observed some amazing results in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune disorders. By the year 2002, Dr. Bihari and colleagues had treated more than two thousand patients with LDN.

as of 2017 it is estimated that more than 350,000 patients worldwide are benefiting from LDN

The launch of the first ever clinical trial of LDN in an autoimmune disease, Crohn’s disease, followed at Penn State University the next year. The publication of that groundbreaking study led to a snowball effect. Since then, more than 70 studies and reports have been published about LDN, and as of 2017 it is estimated that more than 350,000 patients worldwide are benefiting from LDN.

One of the diseases LDN is well known to help is multiple sclerosis. Despite the widespread use of LDN for MS, the explanation for the mechanism driving its beneficial effect has until now been theoretical and not conclusively proven. In this groundbreaking study, Drs. Zagon & McLaughlin, together with Dr. Michael Ludwig at Hershey Medical Center, Penn State University, measured OGF levels in patients with active MS and found that they were lower than normal. Once the patients had been given LDN and experienced improvement in their symptoms, OGF levels were measured again. As the researchers had been expecting, OGF levels had normalized in response to the LDN.

This breakthrough opens the possibilities of exploring additional ways to enhance the production and normalize the function of OGF in the body.

Dr. Zagon (center) and his research teamDr. Zagon (center) and his research team

This breakthrough opens the possibilities of exploring additional ways to enhance the production and normalize the function of OGF in the body. Several drugs are known to impact the OGF pathway, and these could be explored in the future for boosting the effects of LDN in treating multiple sclerosis.

Meanwhile, MS patients who are enjoying the benefit of LDN can take comfort in knowing that there is a rational scientific explanation for their improvement. This new understanding will hopefully lead to LDN’s wider acceptance by neurologists treating MS patients, with the hope of making this low-cost and safe treatment easily accessible.