‘Mom’s Cure’ Fundraiser Supports Work for Early MS Diagnosis via Eye Exam

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by Steve Bryson PhD |

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The Autoimmune Registry (ARI) has opened a fundraiser, called “Cure the Mother’s Disease,” to support the development of a tool that might detect multiple sclerosis (MS) in early stages during an eye exam.

This fundraiserlaunched to mark Mother’s Day celebrations in May, is supporting research being led by Jagannadha Avasarala, MD, PhD, a neurology professor at the University of Kentucky, into the pupilometer. This non-invasive tool uses measures of the eye’s pupil to determine signs of MS, allowing those with this disease to be diagnosed and started on treatment earlier.

MS is caused by autoimmune attacks on the coating that surrounds nerve fibers, the myelin sheath. In addition to motor symptoms, damage to myelin can affect the autonomic nervous system, which regulates a variety of body processes that take place without conscious effort. This includes the optic nerve that regulates dilation of pupils, such that damage might be evident there. 

The pupilometer (also spelled pupillometer) measures pupil dilation to detect early changes caused by MS. Early diagnosis of other autoimmune disorders might also benefit with its use, including Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, systemic sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

“A pupilometer is a non-invasive testing tool that can detect early signs of multiple sclerosis, one of the many autoimmune diseases that target the nervous system,” Avasarala said in a press release.

ARI seeks to raise $50,000 to support Avasarala’s research which, among other things, will help to cover lab tests that are reported to cost $300 for each study participant. Avasarala also serves as a scientific advisor to the registry.

ARI, a non-profit organization, works to provide a centralized hub for research, statistics, and patient data on autoimmune diseases. Its mission is to reduce diagnostic delays, support research, assess statistical information, and raise awareness of these diseases. Autoimmune disorders affect up to 30 million Americans, 70% of whom are women, according to the release, and they are a leading cause of mortality for women between the ages of 15 and 65.

Sydney Abend, a mother with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease affecting the glands that produce tears and saliva, said in the release: “For 10 years, I was told ‘everyone has dry eyes’ and ‘you’re just getting old’. I felt validated when I got my Sjögren’s diagnosis.

“Women are disproportionately affected by these diseases and often brushed off by doctors. We need this research to give doctors the tools they need to improve diagnosis of all autoimmune diseases,” she added. 

A mother of two children whose systemic sclerosis — which affects the skin and internal organs — went undiagnosed for “many years” leading to serious complications, also voiced her support of this effort.

“I am fortunate that I am still able [to] take care of my sons and to be a surrogate mother for my two goddaughters, whose own mother died quite young from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis,” the woman, identified as Joana, said. “More research is needed on all of these autoimmune diseases.”

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