Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Sydney have uncovered a new, powerful biomarker in the blood of patients with multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system attacks the protective myelin that covers nerve fibers, causing communication problems between the brain and body and leads to permanent damage and disability, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"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," Michael Buckland, head of the Department of Neuropathology at RPA Hospital and the Brain and Mind Center at the University of Sydney, said in a news release.
There is currently no definitive test to diagnose MS, which is typically diagnosed through clinical examination, electrophysiology, MRI and other tests.
The study, published today in Scientific Reports, uncovered dysregulated micro-RNA molecules that can accurately diagnose MS and identifies patients at different stages of the disease through a blood test.
Researchers identified the nine micro-RNA molecules that differentiate between relapsing-remitting MS, or RRMS, and progressive MS. RRMS affects 70 percent of patients with MS, and 10-15 percent are diagnosed with progressive MS.
"In studying the blood exosomes of healthy volunteers and patients with MS, the research team identified a 'molecular signature' of MS that not only correctly diagnoses MS, but also discriminates between patients with different stages of disease," Buckland said.
Researchers then developed a blood test to improve diagnosis, and also differentiates between types of MS.
"This blood test may allow people with MS to begin treatment earlier, and identify the most appropriate treatment for their condition," Dr. Matthew Miles, CEO MS Research Australia, said.
"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."