Building on previous research that suggested there may be a more meaningful way to distinguish different types of multiple sclerosis, a new study has defined two categories of MS based on differences in RNA transcription sequences. The researchers hope this novel screening method may help steer clinicians toward more effective therapies.
After analyzing RNA extracted from blood cells of patients with multiple sclerosis, they found distinct sets of RNA molecules in the patient samples. These unique sets distinguished two types of multiple sclerosis, MSa and MSb, based on the level of disease activity. Patients in the MSa category have a higher risk for relapse.
Knowing the category a person with multiple sclerosis is in may help doctors make more informed treatment decisions. For example, if you fall into the MSa category and are more likely to experience relapse, your doctor may consider a stronger treatment.
"These results motivate us to improve these distinctions with further research so that we may reach our goal of identifying the best treatment for each individual who has multiple sclerosis," said lead researcher Philip De Jager, MD, PhD with Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
This study, say researchers, is an important step towards the goal of personalized medicine in MS. But much work remains to be done to fully understand under which circumstance and in combination with which other information these different sets of RNA signatures may become useful in a clinical setting.
About 400,000 Americans have MS, a chronic, sometimes disabling autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. The central nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves so symptoms are often widespread and may include fatigue, numbness in the limbs, balance and coordination problems, bladder or bowel dysfunction, vision problems, pain, or even paralysis.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
National Multiple Sclerosis Society