Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease in which in which the immune system eats away the protective insulating covering of nerves cells in the brain and spinal cord.
MicroRNAs are small RNA molecules that influence basic cellular
processes and have been proposed as biomarkers for the diagnosis,
progression and treatment of multiple sclerosis.
‘MicroRNAs could serve as biomarkers of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) disease processes, once validated and standardized for clinical settings.’
In a new study
conducted at the Ann Romney Center of Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and
Women's Hospital, researchers have found that serum microRNAs are
linked to MRI findings in the brain and spinal cord in patients with MS.
These findings suggest that microRNAs could serve as promising
biomarkers for monitoring the progression of MS and could help to
identify distinct underlying disease processes, such as inflammation and
The study was published in JAMA Neurology
In a large study, researchers examined the connection between serum
microRNAs and MRI measures to evaluate the severity of MS, which
included looking at lesions and atrophy, a measure of degeneration of
the cells, in the central nervous system. Among the findings, the
researchers identified that the expression of certain microRNAs were
linked to MRI measures.
The authors showed that these associations could
be protective or harmful to patients (depending upon the function of
the microRNA). They also found that different mechanisms were linked to
different locations of MS changes, such as in the brain or spinal cord.
Additionally, the study suggested certain sets of microRNAs were linked
to lesions, while others were linked to atrophy, which is known to cause
more devastating effects to MS patients.
"These findings tell us the disease is heterogeneous. There's a
complex set of mechanisms at play, and it may vary from patient to
patient," says senior co-author Rohit Bakshi. "Another
implication of this research is that it could eventually lead to us
having a blood test to identify the subtype of MS in a patient, to help
guide therapeutic decisions and prognosis," says Bakshi, also a
neurologist at BWH.
"MicroRNAs could serve as biomarkers of the underlying MS disease
processes, once validated and standardized for clinical settings. In
addition, these markers have the potential to provide novel treatment
targets," says Roopali Gandhi, senior co-author and an assistant
professor at BWH.