Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience

Biomarker Discovery

Tools for early diagnosis and disease monitoring

By the time motor symptoms occur, more than half of the motor neurons are already damaged beyond repair, and currently on average another year will be lost until a final diagnosis is made. Tools for pre-symptomatic diagnosis are therefore urgently required in order to detect the disease at a stage where neuroprotective agents would have the greatest chance of success.

Our biomarker discovery programme at SITraN investigates marker substances such as mediators or toxins released from the neighbouring glial cells that can be detected in the blood or cerebrospinal fluid of MND patients. We also use gene expression profiling to assess whether levels of certain RNAs and proteins can be used as early disease indicators and have identified some promising candidate microRNA biomarkers.

As part of our clinical biomarker research, Dr Tom Jenkins is currently assessing the potential value of measuring changes in muscle volume by whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in diagnosing MND and monitoring clinical progression.

SITraN is part of the European SOPHIA project -
Sampling, biomarker OPtimizationand Harmonization in ALS -part of the EU Joint Programme (JPND) for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. JPND is the largest global research initiative aimed at tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases. The aim of the SOPHIA project is to develop and standardise much -needed biomarkers of disease.