Detecting the fingerprints of MS for Improved Diagnosis

MS is a complex disease that produces a wide spectrum of symptoms that can make it difficult to distinguish from other autoimmune and neurological diseases. Discovery MS is applying a multi-omic approach to many of our research projects, allowing us to develop highly comprehensive molecular profiles of the disease of unprecedented depth and breadth. By developing multi-omic profiles of MS, we hope to improve diagnostic methods and deepen our understanding of how MS starts and progresses.

Metabolomics
Genomics
Transcriptomics
Epigenetics
Proteomics

Unlocking the puzzles of MS origin and progression for improved prevention and treatment

If we understand how MS begins and how it progresses, we can develop strategies for prevention and for slowing or stopping progression. The only measures clinicians have for an MS drug’s effectiveness is damage to the central nervous system (CNS), either as lesions on an MRI or new symptoms. We hope to develop blood-based tests that can indicate whether a drug is working before significant damage occurs.

What is –omics research?

In the biological sciences, when a topic of study includes the totality of something it often ends in “ome.” For example, the total collection of metabolites (the products of metabolism) in the human body is called the metabolome. The fields that study these “ome” topics end in “omics.” Metabolomics is the study of the metabolome. Genomics is the study of the genome, and proteomics the proteome. ‘Omics research is able to capture a big picture, comprehensive snapshot of the body’s functioning. It also requires cutting-edge technologies and sophisticated statistics to analyze such large datasets. We are combining multi-omic studies to develop profiles of MS of unprecedented depth and breadth.

MURDOCK MS Studies

Much of the research Discovery MS conducts is in partnership with the MURDOCK Study, Duke University’s longitudinal health study of the population of Kannapolis, North Carolina and neighboring communities. The MURDOCK Study keeps a Community Registry of self-reported health information and a biorepository of blood and urine samples from over 12,000 community members. Our primary investigator (PI) Dr. Simon Gregory, is PI on several MURDOCK MS-focused sub-studies. These studies consist of a broad MS study, a serial Primary-Progressive MS study, and a serial imaging study collaboration with Duke University’s Dr. Chunlei Liu. Our research would not be possible without this study and the support of their doctors, scientists, staff and, most importantly, participants. Learn more about the MURDOCK Study.

Genomics

There are over 150 different genetic variants known to increase risk for MS. For most of these variants, the mechanisms for how they increase risk aren’t known. By establishing how each variant affects risk, we can learn more about how MS originates. We are currently determining which variants the subjects of our studies have (genotyping) and comparing the results to our other ‘omic datasets.

Epigenetics

As MS is influenced by environmental risk factors, studying epigenetic changes in MS is crucial to understanding the disease. We are currently studying regions of the genome prone to epigenetic modification that are located near genetic variants known to increase risk for MS.

Metagenomics

Our pilot metabolomics study (and the work of many others) suggests that individuals with and without MS may have differences in the types and amounts of bacteria that live in their gut. Gut bacteria have a big impact on our neurological health via a relationship known as the gut-brain axis. We hope to further explore this connection by securing funding to do metagenomics to generate profiles of gut bacteria for individuals with and without MS.

Metabolomics

Using comprehensive, cutting-edge metabolomics, we are generating metabolomic profiles for individuals with and without MS to look for metabolites that might be useful biomarkers for MS. Read More

Transcriptomics

Variations in the abundance and type of particular RNA transcripts have the potential to tell us how genes function differently in individuals with MS. To generate transcriptome profiles for the subjects in our studies, we are using gene expression microarrays to detect transcript levels of over 25,000 genes.