Levels of myelin sheath components called ceramides are altered in the blood of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and may be linked with retinal degeneration and physical disability, a study has found.
Specific ceramides were altered only in those with progressive MS and may serve as biomarkers of neurodegeneration.
The study, “Serum ceramide levels are altered in multiple sclerosis,” was published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.
Ceramides are a family of waxy fat (lipid) molecules found in all cell membranes and are particularly abundant in myelin sheath — the fatty coating on nerve fibers that is damaged by the immune system in MS.
Ceramides also play a role in cell signaling and survival, as well as in regulating inflammatory signaling and immune cell functions.
Studies suggest ceramide metabolism may be impaired in MS, as altered ceramide content has been detected in brain tissue of active MS lesions and normal-appearing white and gray matter in MS patients. As such, ceramides may serve as biomarkers of MS disease progression and prognosis.
To investigate this possibility, researchers based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland compared the levels of ceramide circulating in blood serum between MS patients and healthy controls, and investigated associations between serum ceramide levels, disability, and disease processes.
The team measured serum ceramide levels from collected blood samples in 151 relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients (82% female, average age 41.3 years) and 100 patients with primary or secondary progressive MS (63% female, average age 52.1). Also included were samples from 68 healthy controls (71% female, average age 40.7).
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