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Catching multiple sclerosis before it strikes
Date:4/29/2010

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an equal opportunity destroyer. It attacks the central nervous system and eventually renders most patients disabled. Among its high-profile victims are celebrated cellist Jacqueline du Pre, whose career was ended by MS, and Joan Didion, one of America's greatest writers but they are far from alone.

The National MS Society estimates that there are currently about 400,000 cases in the U.S. and more that 2 million suffer from the disease over the world. Although there is currently no cure, a breakthrough finding from a Tel Aviv University scientist and physician may lead to earlier diagnosis, more effective intervention, and perhaps even a cure for the autoimmune disease.

Prof. Anat Achiron of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and vice-dean of research at Sheba Medical Center has uncovered a new way of detecting MS in the blood through her research at Sheba. The findings, just published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, are expected to pave the way for a diagnosis of MS before symptoms can appear, allowing for earlier treatment.

"We are not yet able to treat people with MS to prevent the onset of the disease but knowledge is power," Prof. Achiron says. "Every time we meet a new patient exhibiting symptoms of MS, we must ask ourselves how long this has been going on. We can diagnose MS by brain MRI, but we've never been able to know how 'fresh' the disease is," she says.

Clues for early intervention

If doctors can predict the onset of MS early enough, intervention therapies using immunomodulatory drugs such as Copaxone or beta-interferon drugs that stave off MS symptoms, might be used.

"We theorized that if we looked at the gene expression signature of blood cells in healthy people, we could look for possible biological markers that characterize those who subsequently developed MS," says Prof. Achiron.

Examining blood samples of tw
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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