Approximately 2.1 million people suffer from multiple sclerosis worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Multiple sclerosis, a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, is characterized by damage of the myelin sheath, “the material that surrounds and protects nerve cells,” according to MedLinePlus. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis are caused by this damage because it can interfere with messages between the brain and body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis can include fatigue, numbness, dizziness, trouble walking and more. The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown, but recent research may direct scientists in the right path. A group of researchers recently found that it may be possible to detect multiple sclerosis early on by analyzing a patient’s spinal fluid.
According to The Vancouver Sun, it can be difficult to tell when an individual is developing multiple sclerosis, but the new study used a novel technique as a window to the brain afflicted with multiple sclerosis: spinal fluid. A researcher from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School studied the spinal fluid of nine patients with symptoms indicative of early multiple sclerosis. A small cluster of proteins unique to the first multiple sclerosis spells was discovered.
The set of proteins was then compared with the spinal fluid of people without the condition and people who’ve had multiple sclerosis a long period of time. The research found that the protein set was only in the spinal fluid of the early multiple sclerosis patients. Although the study was small, it can serve as a building block for future research.
If the set of proteins is proven to be an effective marker for identifying early multiple sclerosis, then doctors might be able to test for these proteins with a quick spinal tap. Doctors usually perform spinal taps on possible multiple sclerosis patients when they’re trying to look for other autoimmune conditions. Additionally, the study also suggests that not only is myelin damage occurring in the white matter area of the brain, but it can also be damaged in the grey matter tissue that contains actual nerve cells.