Multiple sclerosis early detection study helps towards the objective of predicting MS symptoms years in advance. Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) launched a study of individuals at risk of multiple sclerosis as a means to better understand the sequence of events leading up to the development of MS. Their research also helps set the stage for possible blocking of the onset of multiple sclerosis.
Co-senior author Dr. Phil De Jager said, “Early detection of MS means the possibility of earlier treatment, which could delay the accumulation of disability. Our long-term goal is to map out the sequence of events leading from health to disease, in order to be able to identify and intervene early in individuals at high-risk of MS.”
Over 2,600 families have been recruited to interact with the study through Facebook. The study will include just over 5,000 first-degree relatives of individuals with multiple sclerosis and will take place over the course of the next 20 years.
Lead author Zongqi Xia added, “This first report from the GEMS study is important because it shows that we can recruit the large number of family members that is necessary to perform a well-powered study of MS risk factors.”
Co-senior author Dr. Daniel Reich said, “Since the disease likely starts many years before the first symptom appears, we do not yet understand how genetic and environmental risk factors come together to trigger MS. When a patient comes to see a neurologist for the first time, the process of brain inflammation is well underway, since many lesions have few or no symptoms.”
Dr. De Jager concluded, “This report is an important first step. We do not yet have a tool that we can use clinically to predict MS. To develop such tools further, and to develop a platform for testing strategies to prevent the disease altogether, we are expanding GEMS into a larger collaborative study that will accelerate the progress of discovery and bring together a community of investigators to overcome this important challenge. Overall, the risk of MS remains very small for most family members. The most effective therapies for MS will ultimately be those that prevent its onset, as halting inflammation and disease progression are much more difficult once the disease has become established.”
A previous study has found that a blood test can detect multiple sclerosis up to nine years prior to disease onset. The researchers are hopeful that their findings can help uncover MS before onset, leading to earlier interventions and treatments.
The Israeli research team uncovered certain chemicals that could reveal whether a person is going to develop multiple sclerosis. The presence of these chemicals in the blood can help detect multiple sclerosis early on.
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.”