Researchers at the University of Sydney have discovered something big: molecules unique to the blood of people who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
MS, a chronic neurological disease that affects the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body, does not currently have a definitive test for diagnosis. That is why the discovery the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Center and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has made could be so significant. Biomarkers are substances in the body whose presence indicate that there is a disease or infection also present. So, the researchers hypothesized, it followed that these markers, once identified, could distinguish people who are healthy from people with the disease. To learn more about MS, click here.
These distinct molecules could become surefire diagnostic indicators for MS. And all it may take is a blood test. The testing identified micro-RNA molecules (very short RNA molecules that control genes and life processes) that could accurately diagnose MS and discern between patients who were at different stages of the disease.
They were even able to identify nine different micro-RNA molecules that differentiated between the two major subtypes of MS: relapsing and remitting, versus progressive.
“This blood test may allow people with MS to begin treatment earlier”
—Dr Matthew Miles, CEO of MS Research Australia.
The research team also projects that it could also lead to more accurate diagnoses of MS subtypes for each patient, as well as slow the loss of brain volume, which would in turn slow the disease’s progression within patients.
In the study, researchers assessed the potential usefulness of the micro-RNA in serum exosomes as MS biomarkers. Exosomes are membrane-bound vesicles (small structures within a cell) that exist in almost all cell types and are full of micro-RNA. In many inflammatory diseases (MS being one), there’s a significant increase in concentration of exosomes.
The team hypothesized that physiological changes associated with MS were reflected in changes in the serum exosomal micro-RNAs. Through their testing, they determined a molecular signature of sorts that correctly distinguished MS from healthy controls and identified different types of the disease with high accuracy.