Technological advancement throughout the world will ultimately lead to new ideas and strategies within the medical realm. As reported by Azo Sensors, a team of Brazilian researchers is already streamlining the diagnosis process for neurodegenerative and demyelinating disorders. These can be difficult to diagnose or even tell apart at early stages. Now, nanobiosensors offer the opportunity to more easily distinguish between conditions like multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica. You can find the full study in Ultramicroscopy.
Multiple Sclerosis vs. Neuromyelitis Optica
Two conditions that researchers were looking to more easily diagnose are multiple sclerosis (MS) and neuromyelitis optica.
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease caused by demyelination in the brain. Basically, nerve cells in the brain are covered by a myelin sheath. In patients with multiple sclerosis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath, exposing and damaging the nerve cells. Symptoms include muscle weakness and numbness, loss of balance and coordination, and problems with vision and speech. Learn more about multiple sclerosis here.
On the other hand, neuromyelitis optica, also known as Devic’s syndrome, is an immune disorder resulting in inflammation of the spinal cord and optic nerve. Neuromyelitis optica is frequently confused with multiple sclerosis. The immune system mistakenly attacks nerve tissue. Symptoms include muscle spasms, headache, uncontrollable vomiting, fever, muscle weakness or paralysis, loss of bladder control, and loss of vision. Learn more about neuromyelitis optica here.
New Diagnostic Strategy
To alter the way in which multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica are diagnosed, researchers utilized a nanobiosensor. Nanobiosensors can measure the quantity of something; in this case, it had first been created to measure levels of environmental pollutants. Researchers altered the sensor to better identify myelin basic protein (MBP) peptides. These peptides engage with antibodies within the blood.
So, if researchers measure antibody levels, they can determine whether a patient has a specific condition. Because the sensor can measure minute levels of antibodies, it acts as a more efficient option for early detection. Researcher Fabio de Lima Leite notes:
“Our method is more accurate, avoiding diagnostic errors, as well as being cheaper.”
First, the research team collected cerebrospinal fluid and serum from patients with multiple sclerosis. The samples were then purified. Researchers used MBP peptides to create a sensor, which then positively identified multiple sclerosis antibodies. In a secondary study, researchers were able to distinguish between patients with multiple sclerosis and those with neuromyelitis optica.
This sensor becoming more common would have immense implications for patient outcomes. This is because incorrect diagnosis of neuromyelitis optica or multiple sclerosis can immeasurably harm patients.
For example, one condition is treating with an immunomodulator and the other with an immunosuppressant. Treating neuromyelitis optica incorrectly can further inflame and damage optic nerves. However, by using more targeted treatment options, patients will receive better care.