Biomarkers could make multiple sclerosis diagnosis easier

The autoantibody binds to the membrane of glial cells in the MS serum at right. At left is a blood sample from a patient with another neurological disease--Courtesy of KKNMS

The neurological disease multiple sclerosis is a difficult one to diagnose, with different patients showing a range of different symptoms. Having a biomarker could make the diagnostic process quicker and clearer, allowing earlier treatment with disease-modifying drugs that can reduce the number of relapses. German researchers have found an antibody in the blood of people with multiple sclerosis that could be a key to its diagnosis, as well as a clue to how it develops.

The researchers screened blood plasma from healthy people and people with multiple sclerosis and found an antibody that binds to the KIR4.1 potassium channel in the cell membrane--a channel plays a role in nerve impulses--in almost half of the patients, but not in the healthy controls. The results are published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

"This autoantibody could improve diagnosis of MS and help us differentiate it more clearly from other neurological diseases," say Bernhard Hemmer, a professor at the Technische Universität München (TUM).

This could suggest that this antibody is part of the autoimmune process that researchers believe causes multiple sclerosis, which makes it a possible marker for diagnosis. The next step is to look at whether and how these antibodies influence the development of the disease.

- read the press release
- check out the abstract