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Purdue researchers find new way to possibly diagnose MS

Researchers at Purdue University and the Indiana University School of Medicine found that acrolein, a molecule previously suspected as a metabolic waste product that accumulates in people with certain neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, could possibly be used to help diagnose MS, according to a university article.
Acccording to Dr. David Mattson, professor of neurology and the director of the Indiana University Multiple Sclerosis Center, if the results are validated, acrolein could also allow medical professionals to monitor the effectiveness of treatments, the article states.

"We are in the process of trying to correlate acrolein levels with MS disease activity, which potentially would help us monitor disease activity with a blood test," he said. "If this is validated, it would help us decide how aggressive to be with immunotherapy, or whether a therapy is working or there is a need to switch to a different therapy."

Acrolein is a byproduct of fat metabolism. Dr. Riyi Shi, a professor of neuroscience and biomedical engineering in Purdue University's Department of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, has found that an accumulation of the molecule is present in animal models of neurological diseases such as MS, Parkinson's disease, or even spinal cord and brain injuries, according to the article. Acrolein is thought to damage cells by disrupting the lipids, or fats, that protect nerve tissue, in a process called lipid peroxidation. Shi said that both blood and urine tests, or assays, have been able to measure acrolein levels in humans and in animal models. Shi is a BMES member.

"The levels of this compound in urine and blood is correlated — the MS patients that had the highest level of acrolein in the blood also had the highest level in the urine," he said.

According to Shi, it is, therefore, possible that a high level of acrolein is indicative of more active MS, though low levels of acrolein do not rule out the possibility of having MS.  Further study is needed to validate these initial observations.

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