Metabolon, Cardiff University partner for MS biomarker research

Shared data may help discover markers to predict MS, develop new treatments

Andrea Lobo, PhD avatar

by Andrea Lobo, PhD |

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Metabolon and Cardiff University are partnering to discover new biomarkers that could help better understand disease mechanisms and develop new treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS).

The project leverages Metabolon’s expertise in metabolomics, a field of research that measures all products of metabolism, called metabolites, that are made during cellular activities, to better understand how metabolic activities change in certain diseases.

Metabolite levels combine the functional impact of genetics, environment, disease, and drug exposure, providing an overview of which processes are active in a given patient.

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Cardiff University will contribute patient data, samples

In turn, Cardiff University will contribute a large patient database and samples collected over a long period of time, which will help researchers understand how disease processes change as the disease progresses.

“By leveraging Cardiff’s extensive research and our decades of expertise in generating the highest quality and most accurate metabolomics data on the market, we aim to redefine our understanding of multiple sclerosis to make a profound impact on the lives of those affected by this devastating disease,” Karl Bradshaw, PhD, Metabolon’s chief business officer, said in a company press release.

Although the precise causes of MS remain unclear, it is widely accepted that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role in disease development. Metabolomics may be an essential tool for studying how these factors impact disease development and progression.

Under the new collaboration, researchers will use plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples collected from MS patients at the Cardiff University Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. CSF is the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

The database has participants with all types of MS, including primary progressive MS (PPMS). PPMS is marked by continuous disease progression from disease onset and is generally more aggressive than relapsing forms of the disease, but effective therapeutic options are still lacking.

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Group of patients in database genotyped

A group of patients in the database has been genotyped, meaning their entire genetic makeup is known. This will enable studies integrating both genetic and metobolomic data, which may provide a more comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms that drive MS.

The data has the potential to find biomarkers that predict how the disease will progress in individual patients, and may identify new targets for therapeutic interventions.

“Predictive biomarkers are needed to inform more personalised care for people with multiple sclerosis. This collaboration will provide detailed metabolomic profiles on a large, longitudinal cohort for whom we already have other multi-dimensional data,” said Emma Tallantyre, PhD, clinical reader at Cardiff University. “This represents an exciting opportunity to improve predictive models and thereby aim for more accurate predictions of outcome for people with MS.”