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Blood Tests May Detect Multiple Sclerosis Before Symptoms

Update Date: Feb 21, 2014 04:19 PM EST
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Blood tests may detect multiple sclerosis years before symptoms appear, according to new research.

Scientists recently discovered an antibody in the blood of people with multiple sclerosis may be present long before the disease and its symptoms manifest.

"If our results can be replicated in larger populations, our findings may help to detect MS earlier in a subgroup of patients," study author Viola Biberacher, MD, with Technical University in Munich, Germany, said in a news release.

"Finding the disease before symptoms appear means we can better prepare to treat and possibly even prevent those symptoms. This finding also demonstrates 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," Biberacher added.

The study compared 16 healthy blood donors who were later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis to 16 healthy blood donors who did not develop the disease. The blood samples were collected between two and nine months before the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis appeared.

Researchers focused on a specific antibody called the KIR4.1. They analyzed antibody levels in the blood at various time points up to six years before and after disease onset in those who had the KIR4.1 antibody in their blood.

The findings revealed that all the healthy blood donors tested negative for the KIR4.1 antibody However, seven of those who later developed multiple sclerosis tested positive for the antibodies. Researchers noted that two others showed borderline activity, while the last seven were negative.

"The next step is to confirm these findings in larger groups and determine how many years before onset of disease the antibody response develops," said Biberacher.

The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3, 2014.

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