ALS is an incurable disease in which the muscles become increasingly paralyzed until the respiratory muscles are affected, and the patient eventually passes away. Although ALS is fatal, there are antiretroviral drugs that slow down the process, but doctors must be convinced that the patient has ALS for them to be used. That diagnosis is unfortunately tricky to make at an early stage.
But now, researchers at Umeå University have developed a new method that can facilitate diagnosis.
"Right now, it is difficult to make a reliable ALS diagnosis at an early stage of the disease, with a risk of confusion with other diseases, despite a long investigation period. Much would have been gained if we could make a correct diagnosis earlier. These results are very promising, " says Arvin Behzadi, a doctoral student at Umeå University and the author of the study in a press release.
The method involves the researchers measuring the level of a particular substance in the blood, neurofilament, which shows if a patient has ALS. The researchers' discovery means that a regular blood test is now enough to get an accurate diagnosis.
"Finding suspected cases of ALS through a simple blood test opens up completely new possibilities both for screening and for easier measurement of treatment effect in patients who participate in drug trials. It can also make it possible to apply antiretroviral drugs earlier in the course of the disease before the muscles wither", says Arvin Behzadi.