Ever-advancing technology in the felid of medicine propels the discovery of new diagnostic tests and treatments, all for the sake of better patient care. Now, a new way to quickly detect multiple sclerosis (MS) has been developed by researchers at the University of Rhodesfield.
This new method for diagnosis uses advanced mass spectrometry techniques by analyzing blood samples. The current method of MS diagnosis is considered very painful as it involves collecting fluid from the brain and spine.
A serious autoimmune condition
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder causing the destruction of the protective covering around nerve fibers or axons called myelin sheaths. This leads to communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body leading to MS symptoms, with permanent damage to these nerves being an eventuality.
Autoimmune disorders such as this one result from innate immune cells attacking healthy tissue. The myelin covering nerve fibers can be compared to that of the protective coating found on electrical wires, and if it were to get damaged, the electricity would not reach its destination. When the protective myelin is damaged and the never fiber is exposed, the message that was traveling from the brain along the nerve may be slowed or blocked.
Multiple sclerosis is thought to develop in people due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Signs and symptoms of the disease may differ greatly from person to person depending on the location of the affected nerve fibers. The following are some of these presentations:
- Partial or complete loss of vision – usually in one eye
- Prolonged double vision
- Tremor or lack of coordination
- Numbness or weakness in the limbs on one side
- Tingling or pain in parts of the body
- Slurred speech
- Problems with bowel and bladder function
The discovery of compounds in the blood
The researchers were able to identify two key natural biomarker compounds (sphingosine and dihydrosphingosine) linked to MS. Best of all, these compounds can be used to positively diagnose MS patients. Additionally, the researchers are optimistic that the discovery of these compounds will possibly assist new drug development into MS treatment.
“Sphingosine and dihydrosphingosine have been previously found to be at lower concentrations in the brain tissue of patients with multiple sclerosis. The detection of these sphingolipids in blood plasma allows the non-invasive monitoring of these and related compounds,” said Sean Ward, who is an analytical chemist and Ph.D. student based at the University of Huddersfield’s IPOS unit, and co-author of the study.
Mass spectrometry data is very complex, providing the ability to find thousands of compounds in a single sample. By using a Mass Profiler Professional (MPP), a type of chemometric software, researchers are able to accurately compare these samples to find discrete differences.
This advancement in medical technology has provided the opportunity to investigate molecules implicated in multiple sclerosis. Making testing an easy and quick process helps to better give patients the treatment they need while improving their quality of life.