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New Study May Help With Predicting the Severity of MS

September 15, 2016

The researchers behind a new study hope that a method they have developed will contribute to answering the question why certain multiple sclerosis patients suffer less severely with the disease than others. Eventually, a test may be developed for use in patient management.

Cells in the immune system of patients with MS will behave differently from those of healthy individuals. Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden exploited this difference to develop a method that can predict disease activity in multiple sclerosis.

The new study, published in the scientific journal Cell Reports, describes how the researchers have sought biomarkers that can be used in MS. Biomarkers are naturally occurring substances in the body that can be measured in, for example, blood and that mirror a condition in the body.

The researchers compared immune cells from MS patients with cells from a control group of healthy individuals, and they discovered important differences in the functioning of cells between the 2 groups. The researcher investigated how large numbers of proteins interact with each other, and used new bioinformatics methods to find those that are highly significant in MS.

"We have been able to study in detail changes in the immune cells of patients, and been able to identify important proteins. This has led us to a biomarker that can predict how the disease will progress in the patient", says bioinformatics specialist Mika Gustafsson, who has led the study with Professor Jan Ernerudh.

The biomarker that the researchers have identified is a combination of four proteins, whose concentrations in cerebrospinal fluid can be measured. In the study, it was possible for the researchers to predict with the aid of the biomarker which patients with MS would have active MS disease two years later. The new method was also able to predict the efficacy of a common MS drug in a small group of patients.