A study led by the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has revealed unique molecules in the blood of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) that could become definitive diagnostic biomarkers of the world's most common neurologic disability in young adults.
Published in Scientific Reports, the discovery identifies tiny 'dysregulated' micro-RNA molecules that correctly diagnose MS and discriminate between patients at different disease stages - all in a simple blood test.
Currently, there is no definitive test for MS. Diagnosis and disease monitoring relies on several parameters, including clinical examination, MRI, cerebrospinal fluid assessment, and electrophysiology.
In addition to identifying biomarkers that distinguish healthy people from those with MS, the researchers identified nine unique micro-RNA molecules that differentiate between relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and progressive MS.
RRMS affects 70% of people and often evolves into a secondary progressive form of MS. 10-15% of people with MS are diagnosed with a progressive form of the disease from the outset known as primary progressive MS.
The team also validated eight out of nine micro-RNA molecules in an independent group of progressive MS cases, confirming the reproducibility of the findings.
'This is the first demonstration that micro-RNAs associated with circulating exosomes in blood are informative biomarkers not only for the diagnosis of MS, but in predicting disease subtypes with a high degree of accuracy,' said Associate Professor Michael Buckland, Head of the Department of Neuropathology at RPA Hospital and the Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney.
'This blood test may allow people with MS to begin treatment earlier, and identify the most appropriate treatment for their condition,' said Dr Matthew Miles, CEO MS Research Australia.
'This, in turn may lead to fewer relapses and a slower loss of brain volume, resulting in slowing or potentially halting progression of the disease for the person living with MS. It will also help remove the uncertainty surrounding which sub type of the disease an individual has and therefore be a catalyst for better outcomes for all people with MS.'