"We found a set of 11 proteins that were significantly higher in the spinal fluid of ALS patients," said Connor, whose findings appear in the January issue of Neurology. "Two proteins were significantly higher in the control group, suggesting that ALS is associated with an increase in some proteins, and a decrease in other proteins."
The researchers report that with the help of these biomarkers, they were able to identify the spinal fluid samples from ALS patients with 92 percent accuracy.
These findings, Connor explains, tell that ALS involves an inflammatory process in the spinal cord and that physicians can detect the extent of the inflammation by sampling the spinal fluid. Therefore, a potential therapy should not be restricted to treating cells throughout the body and hoping the effects trickle back into the brain and spinal cord, he added.
In a second study, researchers found a set of five separate proteins in the blood that are capable of identifying ALS. However, the proteins in the spinal fluid appear to be more accurate indicators of the disease.
"We are not finding that same degree of inflammatory activity in proteins in the blood that we find in the spinal fluid," said Connor, who has filed a provisional patent for the disease biomarkers he found.
The biomarkers could help save time otherwise lost in diagnosing the disease. For instance, a patient complaining of weakness in the legs or reduced grip strength could be checked for the biomarkers. If ALS is suspected, further treatment may begin.
"What we want is to have a diagnostic kit that can be used by any physician, not just a specialist, to provide timely advice to patients and their families," explained Connor. "We are basically trying to find the bad news before its too late."
|Contact: Amitabh Avasthi|