New Blood Biomarker Technology May Help to Predict MS Activity

Marta Figueiredo, PhD avatar

by Marta Figueiredo, PhD |

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Simoa, a technology that detects relevant molecules in samples with up to 1,000 times greater sensitivity than conventional methods, has helped to advance research into a blood biomarker expected to predict future disease activity in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.

Specifically, Quanterix‘s ultra-sensitive technology allowed an international team of researchers to establish reference ranges of serum neurofilament light chain (sNfL), a marker of neuronal damage, corrected for age and body-mass index (BMI) — factors known to affect sNfL values.

Serum is the non-cellular part of blood, and BMI is a ratio of weight to height.

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Based on the results — obtained using serum samples from more than 5,000 healthy individuals — the team developed an online app that other researchers and clinicians can use to calculate reference ranges of serum NfL levels for a given individual.

“This seminal normative study provides practitioners with important insights on what level of sNfL represents ‘normal’,” Kevin Hrusovsky, Quanterix’ chairman and CEO, said in a press release.

Using these reference values, the researchers were able to predict the risk of relapse or disease worsening and to assess treatment response in MS patients at the individual level.

“By utilizing Simoa’s ultra-sensitivity, our research team has been able to reach this milestone achievement for the larger MS community,” said Jens Kuhle, MD, who led the sNfL study. Kuhle is a professor and head of the neuroimmunology unit and Multiple Sclerosis Center at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland.

“Our hope is that this breakthrough will establish a new method to help clinicians measure and interpret elevated values of sNfL to more precisely assess disease activity and drug response for MS patients,” Kuhle added.

“These advances could lead to improved and timelier optimization of therapy,” said Hrusovsky, who is also the founder of Powering Precision Health, an initiative focused on using new technology and latest medical research to advance precision medicine.

“Serum NfL is a first example and there is high and realistic hope of future additional blood biomarkers informing personalized and more precise treatment decisions in MS,” Kuhle said.

Simoa (standing for SIngle MOlecule Array) is a fully automated detection platform that can isolate and detect single molecules bound to tiny antibody-coated beads, and allowing the simultaneous assessment of up to 10 biomarkers in a single experiment.

Its technology allows the detection of ultra-low levels of biomarkers — proteins, DNA, or RNA molecules — “that were previously out of reach,” according to an explanatory video.

“The ability to detect neurological biomarkers at ultra-low levels, which have traditionally only been detectable in cerebrospinal fluid, has the potential to transform the way brain injuries and diseases are diagnosed,” Quanterix states on its website. The cerebrospinal fluid is the liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

With Simoa, relevant neurological biomarkers can be detected at much earlier stages in human samples that require less invasive collection methods, the company reports, potentially allowing for better prediction of a disease’s course and better treatment approaches.

In addition to neurologic diseases, Quanterix is using the technology in therapeutic areas that include cancer, heart conditions, and inflammatory and infectious diseases.