Purdue University just reported that researchers have identified a biomarker (a measurable substance in an organism whose presence is indicative of disease or infection) that could be an early sign of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The biomarker, acrolein, is a molecule previously suspected to be a metabolic waste product that accumulates in people with certain neurological disorders such as MS and Parkinson’s disease – and could help diagnose MS!
About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease which is characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, a fatty, insulating, protective covering that surrounds nerve cells and allows them to communicate effectively.
Symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, blindness in one eye, numbness, abnormal sensations, pain, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, difficulty speaking and swallowing, mood instability, depression, loss of coordination, and fatigue. There are a number of treatments available for the disease, but no cure. Life expectancy for patients is slightly reduced.
Early Detection and Possible Therapy?
Acrolein is a byproduct of fat metabolism, and researchers found that an accumulation of the molecule is present in animal models of neurological diseases such as MS, Parkinson’s disease, and even spinal cord and brain injuries.
Acrolein is thought to damage cells by disrupting the lipids, or fats, that protect nerve tissue, in a process called lipid peroxidation.
“We are in the process of trying to correlate acrolein levels with MS disease activity, which potentially would help us monitor disease activity with a blood test,” said David Mattson, professor of neurology and the director of the Indiana University Multiple Sclerosis Center. “If this is validated, it would help us decide how aggressive to be with immunotherapy, or whether a therapy is working or there is a need to switch to a different therapy.”
And it gets better!
Researchers believe acrolein could be a potential target for MS therapies!
“If it turns out these agents can reduce acrolein levels in MS and offer benefit for the disease process in MS, then patients on these agents for the blood pressure or psychiatric indications would get two benefits for one.”