Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common neurological disease in young adults, affecting more than 2 million individuals worldwide, with about 1500 cases in Estonia. About 20% of MS patients experience optic neuritis (ON) as the presenting symptom, but not all ON patients develop MS.
The TalTech gene technology research unit, in collaboration with the laboratory of Protobios OÜ and medical researchers of the University of Helsinki, published their findings in the prestigious journal of EBioMedicine entitled “Identification of two highly antigenic epitope markers predicting multiple sclerosis in optic neuritis patients.” The lead author Helle Sadam and co-authors Mariliis Jaago and Annika Rähni are the Ph.D. students of the TalTech Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, Division of Gene Technology.
The principal investigator for the study, Kaia Palm, associate professor in the Division of Gene Technology TalTech and head of research at Protobios OÜ: “We have developed and patented a very powerful technology called Mimotope Variation Analysis (MVA) for the development of diagnostic tests and delineation of novel drug targets. It is based on the recognition of the diversity of the human B-cell immune response or antibody profile. The immune response mediated by B-lymphocytes plays an important role in the development of both (MS and ON) pathologies, so it is a promising target for detecting early diagnostic biomarkers for named diseases.”
Professor Pentti Tienari from the Department of Neurosciences at the University of Helsinki and co-author of the study said, when speaking about the significance of the work: ” Treatment of MS is most effective, when started early, but there have been only few biomarkers available to identify people at risk after the first episode of optic neuritis.”
Professor Antti Vaheri, co-author and Professor Emeritus of Virology, University of Helsinki, added: “Notably, critical involvement of viruses in neurological diseases has therapeutic implications, especially in the case of herpesviruses against which multiple antiviral agents exist.”
In the published work, more than 500 different clinical samples (including blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples) from Finnish as well as Estonian patients were analyzed by MVA. The results provide a broad, high-resolution view on humoral immunity associated with different cases and report on the prognostic value of viral antibodies as novel blood biomarkers for predicting risk of MS after the first episode of ON.