A product called acrolein, which is naturally excreted by the body and possible to measure in urine and blood, may be a potential biomarker to help diagnose and evaluate disease activity in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to preliminary research in animal models and humans.
Researchers are investigating whether acrolein could be a surrogate marker for disease activity. If so, urine or blood tests potentially could be used to monitor the disease course and the effectiveness of MS treatments.
The findings were reported in the study “Systemic Acrolein Elevations in Mice With Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis and Patients With Multiple Sclerosis,” published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.
Acrolein is a small byproduct of the fat metabolism, which is naturally eliminated by the body. Prior tests in animal models of MS, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord and brain injury, have found that the substance accumulates at sites of neurological injury, causing oxidative stress and damage to the myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells.
Now, a team of scientists at Purdue University and the Indiana University School of Medicine, both in Indiana, found that acrolein is present in higher amounts in the urine and blood of patients with MS compared with healthy people participating in the study.
These findings open the possibility of using acrolein as an easily testable biomarker, to aid in MS diagnosis.
“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,” Riyi Shi, PhD, said in a story written by Steve Tally. Shi is a professor of neuroscience and biomedical engineering at Purdue University, and senior author of the study.
These results also may indicate that the higher the levels of acrolein in a patient, the more active is the patient’s MS, Shi said. If so, a urine or blood test may help doctors evaluate if a therapy is working, or if there is a need to switch to a different treatment.
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