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Researchers performed the analysis using long-term data from 66 patients.
A new study employed computational simulations to answer a key question surrounding multiple sclerosis (MS). It found that MS is 1 disease. That’s important because the subsets of MS cause various symptoms, advancing in patients at different rates, according to the report.
But how researchers conducted the analysis is also important. They developed a mathematical model, which then mimicked the neurological disease. Data from 66 MS patients over 20 years helped create the simulations, and 3 years of information from another 120 patients verified the model, according to the study.
“We found that by adjusting certain parameters, albeit within their biological range, the mathematical model reproduced the different disease courses,” the architects of the study, from August Pi Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute at the University of Barcelona, wrote.
In other words, the simulations examined whether different MS phenotypes could be reproduced from the same mechanism. The analysis turned up a conclusive answer, meaning it could guide future research into treatments.
The journal PLOS Computational Biology published the study, “Dynamics and heterogeneity of brain damage in multiple sclerosis," last month.
Pablo Villoslada, MD, PhD, director of the University of Barcelona institute, said the results could help advance personalized medicine for MS patients. Since the model can forecast the possible course of the disease, it might also predict how the neurological disease could progress in a single patient, sketching a path for customized care.
“Based on the risk analysis obtained from such an approach, patients and physicians will be able to make informed decisions,” Villoslada said.
Next, researchers should aim to collect quantitative data from patient databases, he said. The mathematical model may then lay out possible disease prognoses and gauge their accuracy.
Villoslada noted that the study shines a light on the neurological damage caused by MS.
“Our simulations support the concept that MS induces a chronic inflammatory process that damages the brain from the beginning, in an accumulative way, as well as with superimposed relapses,” he said. Relapses disturb quality of life, which is why early treatment is critical but not quite enough, he added.
Even then, the brain will go on to sustain damage from the disease, leading to disability.
The findings should remind physicians to closely monitor MS patients—even if the disease appears to not be progressing, he said.