Scientists have detailed a breakthrough finding may lead to earlier diagnosis, more effective intervention, and perhaps even a cure for multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease.
Prof. Anat Achiron of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and vice-dean of research at Sheba Medical Center has discovered a new way of detecting MS in the blood through her research at Sheba.
The findings is expected to pave the way for a diagnosis of MS before symptoms can appear, allowing for earlier treatment.
"We are not yet able to treat people with MS to prevent the onset of the disease but knowledge is power. Every time we meet a new patient exhibiting symptoms of MS, we must ask ourselves how long this has been going on. We can diagnose MS by brain MRI, but we've never been able to know how 'fresh' the disease is," Achiron said.
If doctors can predict the onset of MS early enough, intervention therapies using immunomodulatory drugs such as Copaxone or beta-interferon drugs that stave off MS symptoms, might be used.
"We theorized that if we looked at the gene expression signature of blood cells in healthy people, we could look for possible biological markers that characterize those who subsequently developed MS," said Achiron.
Examining blood samples of twenty 19-year-old Israelis who were inducted into the army as healthy soldiers, and the nine of them who later developed MS, Achiron and her team at Sheba were able to use a "high throughput analysis" using more than 12,000 gene transcripts expressions.
The screening compared similarities and differences in the blood of those who developed MS and those who did not, eventually establishing biological markers.
The study has been published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease.