Scientists in the US claim to have made a breakthrough in the detection of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University report in February's Annals of Neurology that the discovery of a protein found only in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may help identify people likely to develop the disease as well as distinguish between different forms of MS.
Multiple sclerosis, unlike other autoimmune diseases where the body attacks its own tissue, cannot be diagnosed by blood tests or other simple methods, which makes this discovery all the more important, claim the researchers.
"There is the possibility now that the protein we identified, 12.5 kDa cystatin, can be used to diagnose MS, perhaps in its earliest stages, and also to monitor treatment by measuring its levels in CSF," says Avindra Nath, head of the report.
The disease, which it typified by loss of muscle coordination and speech and vision problems, is thought to affect around 85,000 people in the UK.