Feb 02 2023 Posted: 08:00 GMT

By Bianca Castelli and Shima Shapoori, CÚRAM and LifETIME-CDT PhD reseachers

The MS Research Group in CÚRAM at the University of Galway is calling for volunteers to join their study on biomarkers of multiple sclerosis (MS).

According to the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF), 2.8 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, making it the most common immunological disease of the brain. However, diagnosis can be a lengthy process, as the necessary diagnostic tests, such as MRI scans and lumbar punctures, are not always conclusive, and can also be expensive and invasive. Furthermore, specialist knowledge from consultant neurologists is required and referral from your GP can take a long time.

Besides delays in getting an initial MS diagnosis, all these problems also impact the all-important monitoring of disease progression, which helps inform clinicians on treatment plans and care packages needed. Doctors need to know how people are responding to treatment or what sort of symptoms they are developing and lack of access to consultant care and the necessary hospital tests can have a real impact on someone’s quality of life.

However, with your help, we plan to change this!

We are currently looking for volunteers (18+) that are willing to participate in our study. We plan to include people with MS, either progressive (PMS) or relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), as well as a control group that does not have an MS diagnosis.

Once you become a volunteer, our research team will ask you to donate some samples, which can be collected in a non-invasive manner. These include nasal secretions, tears, saliva, hair, and a small blood sample. Moreover, to expand the data we can gather, volunteers may also be tested for their sense of smell, upper limb mobility and mental agility.

By analysing your samples and test results, we hope to demonstrate that it is possible to detect what are known as “biomarkers” of MS in these easily accessible samples, as well as prove that these markers can be useful for MS diagnosis and monitoring. Using innovative technology, our team’s end-goal is to develop a rapid test that will provide a low-cost, easy, and accessible platform to test and monitor people living with MS.

If you are someone or know someone with MS, or simply want to help us by volunteering, you can contact us directly by email at b.castelli1@universityofgalway.ie or s.shapoori1@universityofgalway.ie .

This research is being carried out under the supervision of Dr Una FitzGerald and Dr Jill McMahon in CÚRAM at the University of Galway, Dr Sinéad Hynes, Lecturer Occupational Therapy, University of Galway and in collaboration with clinicians at University Hosptial Galway and other healthcare sites.


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