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The dawn of MS: Detecting Multiple Sclerosis years before symptoms start


   Identifying the dawn of MS could make the future a whole lot brighter
photo: Pamela Yelinek

As some MS patients will readily attest, Multiple Sclerosis is not only sneaky and mysterious but it’s often hard to diagnose to boot.

Without something as telling as a blood test doctors must eliminate other maladies, as well as identify standardized diagnostic criterion, in a process that can be amazingly time consuming and frustrating for physician and patient alike. For some patients that process can take years or even decades, like Cindy of Amarillo, TX, who began having symptoms some ten years before doctors recognized her MS. Enduring recurrent bladder infections along with numbness and tingling in her extremities for more than a decade, Cindy “could not feel anything from the neck down” when her diagnosis was finally made. The dark period of ambiguity afforded Cindy’s disease opportunity to progress and her stress level to increase without merit.

Making a diagnosis of MS can actually be impeded by its confusing and vague symptoms but there’s exciting news on the horizon emanating from Israel’s Tel Aviv University. Prof. Anat Achiron and her team discovered evidence of Multiple Sclerosis in the blood gene expression of healthy individuals up to nine years before their symptoms began. Her findings, published in the May 2010 journal Neurobiology of Disease, reveal an understanding of MS that could lead to faster diagnosis, early mitigation, and ultimately the path to banishing it to the annals of history books. According to Cindy in Amarillo, if she could have been diagnosed earlier; “Maybe they could have stopped my progression.”

  A promising new blood test may illuminate the way toward a cure for MS
                                         Photo: Pamela Yelinek

Early detection and treatment could save money

Having the capacity to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis before symptoms appear and irreversible damage to bodies, and lives, occurs will undoubtedly diminish redundancy in the financial burden of the disease. Take the case of Houston resident, Karla, who saw an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for the numbness in her face and was diagnosed with TMJ. She then visited her primary care physician who thought perhaps thyroid function, vitamin B deficiency or diabetes could be to blame and consequently tested for all of them. It was Karla herself who linked the numbness in her face to the numbness she had experienced in her legs a few months prior and eventually saw a neurologist who, after further testing, gave her a diagnosis of RRMS a week later. A blood test to detect MS early on has the potential to eliminate countless doctor visits and untold misdiagnoses.

Although Prof. Achiron’s findings may not necessarily help those already diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, her breakthrough might just illuminate the way to a cure. Meanwhile it brings rise to an important question; how would you feel about knowing you have MS years before symptoms begin?



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