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Research suggests possible blood test for multiple sclerosis

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. New research by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and colleagues suggests that one day, doctors may be able to diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS) with a simple blood test. The findings are reported in the current issue of the Journal of Molecular Neuroscience.

"In some patients, it is difficult to conclusively diagnose MS," said Jagannadha Avasarala, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher, who completed the study while at Wake Forest Baptist. "Identifying markers for disease has become a rapidly evolving science, particular in cancer diagnostics. In the field of MS, however, there have been no similar studies."

This is the first published report of a potential blood test for MS. For the study, the researchers compared blood samples from 25 patients who were newly diagnosed with MS with blood samples from 25 healthy people to see if there is a "fingerprint," or distinct pattern of proteins and peptides in people with MS. Proteins are made by genes, and the information locked in genes is "expressed" in proteins. Peptides are the building blocks of proteins.

Participants in the study had relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form, which is characterized by attacks interspersed with stable periods. They were not taking medications for MS. The mean age of participants with MS was 29 years; the healthy participants had a mean age of 28.

"In this preliminary investigation, we found a distinct pattern in the MS group that revealed the existence of three markers for the disease," said Avasarala, a neurologist. "This suggests the potential for developing a blood test that could allow us to identify the earliest changes that represent MS and help in its diagnosis."

Currently the disease is diagnosed through a combination of patient history, physical examination, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and laboratory testing, such as lumbar puncture. "MRI is an expensive tool that we might be able to avoid if a blood tes
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
15-Mar-2005


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