Test Predicts MS Flare-Ups

Blood Test Promises to Make Multiple Sclerosis More Predictable

From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 3, 2004 -- One of the worst things about multiple sclerosis is that it's unpredictable. Now a high-tech blood test promises to tell MS patients how they're doing.

The test uses something called microarray technology. It lets scientists analyze thousands of genes at the same time. Genes turn on and off in certain patterns. A research team led by Anat Achiron, MD, PhD, of Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel, finds that about 1,100 genes fire in a different pattern in people with MS than in healthy individuals.

Perhaps even more exciting is the finding that some 700 genes fire in a different pattern when people with MS are having an acute disease relapse.

"Our study ... does provide support to the notion that microarray results could be used to predict the course of disease and, potentially, therapeutic response," study co-author Naftali Kaminski, MD, says in a news release.

A simple blood sample is used to get the genes needed for testing. However, there's no commercial version of the test. Patients will have to wait until further studies are completed, and a version of the test is developed for clinical use -- if, indeed, the current results are confirmed.

The study results also point to a number of never-before-identified genes involved in multiple sclerosis.

"Many of the previously unrecognized genes that we identified could serve as markers for disease activity and, potentially, predictors of pending relapses," Achiron and colleagues suggest.

The findings appear in the Feb. 2 online edition of the Annals of Neurology.