Eye Scan May Help Early Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Researchers have found that a five-minute eye exam called optical coherence tomography (OCT) that measures optic nerve damage may aide in spotting multple sclerosis (MS) early, as well as help track the progression of the disease.

While the definitive cause of MS is not known, most scientists believe that MS is an auto-immune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system.

Currently, MS is diagnosed by patient history, clinical exams, and laboratory tests. The National MS Society says the preferred test, which detects plaques or scarring that may be caused by MS, is magnetic resonance imaging or an MRI.

In the OCT study, 40 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients underwent OCT scans. The results suggested an association between the retinal measurement and brain atrophy.

According to Johns Hopkins neurologist Peter Calabresi, M.D., an MRI "measures the result of many types of tissue loss rather than specifically nerve damage itself. With OCT we can see exactly how healthy these nerves are, potentially in advance of other symptoms."

OCT scans are also much faster and less expensive than MRI scans.

Dr. Calabresi adds that many of the MS symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, visual impairment, fatigue, weakness and bladder function disturbance, are the result of nerve cell degeneration, so a test that specifically measures nerve cell health is potentially the clearest picture of the status of the disease, though optic nerve damage can point to a number of diseases and is not a unique diagnostic tool for MS.

The National MS Society estimates that about 400,000 people have Multiple Sclerosis.

The study was published in the October, 2007 issue of Neurology.

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Genes Linked to Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Researchers have published their discovery linking two genes with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disorder in which the immune cells infiltrate the brain and spinal cord.

Surrounding and protecting some brain and spinal cord cells is a fatty layer known as the myelin sheath. Myelin sheath is important for conducting electrical impulses along the nerves and maintaining the health of the nerves.
In multiple sclerosis, inflammation causes the myelin to degenerate and eventually disappear, causing the impulses that travel along the nerves to decelerate.

The researchers conducted a study using DNA technology that enabled them to screen the genetic blueprint of close to 3,000 people, 931 of whom had the disease.

The data revealed 174 nucleotide differences called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that may be associated with the risk of multiple sclerosis. They then analyzed 110 out of the 174 SNPs in a second set of subjects which number close to 5,000 people. In their final combined analysis, the scientists cited several genes that showed significant association with the risk of multiple sclerosis, two of which are implicated in the regulation of the immune response–interleukin-2 receptor alpha gene (IL2RA) and interleukin-7 receptor alpha gene (IL7R).

Other associated genes include KIAA0350, RPL5, DBC1, CD58, ALK, FAM69A, ANKRD15, EVI5, KLRB1, CBLB and PDE4B.
The research was published in the August 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.