One of the most difficult aspects of treating Multiple Sclerosis is its diagnosis. Given the onset of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis — the most common form of the disease — it can take medical practitioners up to six months of observation before giving an official diagnosis and beginning treatment. Similarly, as Relapsing-Remitting patients progress into Secondary Progressive MS, identifying that changeover can be equally complicated.
However, a study outlining the discovery of an antibody that is specific to those who have MS may function as a viable biomarker for the disease, helping medical practitioners diagnose Multiple Sclerosis early, and even anticipate its onset prior to the full presentation of symptoms. Just as patients are often diagnosed as “pre diabetic,” so too could patients be diagnosed as “pre MS.”
Researcher and study author Viola Biberacher, MD of the Technical University in Munich, Germany, explained that, “. . . the antibody development to the KIR4.1 protein, a protein found in some people with MS, precedes the clinical onset of disease suggesting a role of the autoantibody in how the disease develops.” The study had researchers look for this specific antibody to KIR4.1 in the study population, which compared 16 healthy blood donors who were later diagnosed with MS with 16 healthy blood donors of the same age and sex who did not develop MS. The samples, which were collected between two and nine months before the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis appeared, bore out impressive results, revealing that there was a direct correlation between the antibody and the onset of the disease. In fact, according to a news release, “In the study, KIR4.1 antibodies were found in the people with pre-clinical MS several years before the first clinical attack. Concentrations of the antibody varied at different time points during pre-MS in individual people.”
Dr. Biberacher notes that more research needs to be done in a wider-range study before any definitive conclusions can be reached. “If our results can be replicated in larger populations,” she said, “our findings may help to detect MS earlier in a subgroup of patients.”
The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.