by Bianca Castelli and Shima Shapoori
The MS Research Group in CÚRAM at the University of Galway is calling for volunteers to join its study on biomarkers of multiple sclerosis (MS ).
According to the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF ), 2.8 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, making it the most common immunological disease of the brain. However, diagnosis can be a lengthy process, as the necessary diagnostic tests, such as MRI scans and lumbar punctures, are not always conclusive, and can also be expensive and invasive. Furthermore, specialist knowledge from consultant neurologists is required and referral from your GP can take a long time.
Besides delays in getting an initial MS diagnosis, all these problems also impact the all-important monitoring of disease progression, which helps inform clinicians on treatment plans and care packages needed. Doctors need to know how people are responding to treatment or what sort of symptoms they are developing, and lack of access to consultant care and the necessary hospital tests can have a real impact on someone’s quality of life.
The MS Research Group is currently looking for volunteers (18+ ) who are willing to participate in this study. The group plans to include people with MS, either progressive (PMS ) or relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS ), as well as a control group that does not have an MS diagnosis.
Once you become a volunteer, the research team will ask you to donate some samples, which can be collected in a non-invasive manner. These include nasal secretions, tears, saliva, hair, and a small blood sample. Moreover, to expand the data they can gather, volunteers may also be tested for their sense of smell, upper limb mobility, and mental agility.
By analysing your samples and test results, the team hope to demonstrate that it is possible to detect what are known as “biomarkers” of MS in these easily accessible samples, as well as prove that these markers can be useful for MS diagnosis and monitoring. Using innovative technology, the team’s end-goal is to develop a rapid test that will provide a low-cost, easy, and accessible platform to test and monitor people living with MS.
If you are someone or know someone with MS, or simply want to help by volunteering, you can contact the MS Research Group directly by email at [email protected] or [email protected].
This research is being carried out under the supervision of Dr Una FitzGerald and Dr Jill McMahon in CÚRAM at the University of Galway, and in collaboration with Dr Marwa Elamin, Department of Neurology, University of Galway.