Blood test can detect multiple sclerosis nine years before symptoms begin, say scientists
Posted Jun 18 2010 5:25am
By Last updated at 9:42 AM on 17th June 2010
Scientists are developing a simple blood test to predict multiple sclerosis up to nine years before the onset of symptoms. Experts predict that the discovery could lead to much earlier treatment to prevent the disease progressing. At present, doctors have no way of detecting MS before symptoms develop and patients are frequently diagnosed too late.
But a team of Israeli doctors and scientists have identified certain chemicals which, if present in the blood, indicate the person may get the disease. These 'chemical markers' could lead to a test. Professor Anat Achiron, of Tel Aviv University's faculty of medicine, said: '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 scans, but we've never been able to know how "fresh" the disease is.' If doctors can predict the onset of MS early enough it is possible that drugs such as Copaxone or Beta-interferon could be administered. They stave off MS symptoms - but do not cure them. By examining blood samples of 20 19-year-old Israelis who were inducted into the army as healthy soldiers, and nine of them who later developed MS, the researchers were able to examine thousands of genes for markers which showed a difference in those who developed MS.
These markers may be used to test for MS up to nine years before healthy young adults start developing symptoms. Because MS is thought to have a genetic component and a tendency to be found in siblings, doctors believe the markers will initially be used as a tool for testing brothers and sisters of patients. Multiple sclerosis, which affects the brain and spinal cord, affects 100,000 Britons. The findings are published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease.