RNA biomarkers in the blood could give clues about the outcome for patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS). A diagnosis of MS is a tough one to deal with anyway, but what makes it harder for the patient and his or her doctor is the uncertain and unpredictable course of this neurological disorder, which can lay dormant for weeks, months or years, and then surface. Prompt use of current treatments can slow the course of the disease, so predictive tests could help doctors tailor treatment to individuals.
Researchers from Ohio State University found the key fragment of non-coding RNA, known as miR-29, by screening blood samples from people with MS, and creating mice with different miRNAs "knocked out." In healthy people, miR-29 regulates white blood cells involved in the immune response against infection. If these cells are not controlled, this can lead to the inflammation seen in MS. The marker is the first of this type to be linked with MS, according to the research team, and the results were published in the Journal of Immunology.
"Since we knew miRNAs play an important role in creating and controlling inflammation in the body, we believed it was also likely miRNAs played a role in the inflammation process that underlies MS," says Kristen Smith, principal investigator. "What we found was important to the understanding of the disease--the profile of expression or activity of miRNAs did change in MS patients as compared to healthy adults."
Further research is needed to look at how miR-29 changes across the cycles of relapse and remission, potentially leading to a blood test that could predict the course of the disease, though it is still very early.
In separate research carried out in Boston and Cambridge, U.S. researchers have found RNA signatures that could divide MS patients into two groups, MSa, and MSb, according to their disease activity and risk of relapse. The research was published in Science Translational Medicine.