Researchers have found that multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the brain and spinal cord, can be detected by simply analysing blood samples.
The current procedure for detection of the disease requires the invasive, often painful, process of collecting fluid from the brain and spine.
The research identified two natural biomarker compounds, which have been linked to multiple sclerosis.
The compounds, sphingosine and dihydrosphingosine, were found to be at significantly lower concentrations in blood samples from multiple sclerosis patients.
As well as offering a diagnostic tool to identify MS, the discovery will aid the investigation of the role of the compounds in the disease and assist potential new drug development, the researchers said.
For the study, published in the journal Analytical Methods, the researchers from University of Huddersfield in England used advanced mass spectrometry techniques.
"Sphingosine and dihydrosphingosine have been previously found to be at lower concentrations in the brain tissue of patients with multiple sclerosis. The detection of these sphingolipids in blood plasma allows the non-invasive monitoring of these and related compounds," the study said.
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibres and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of your body. Ultimately, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged, according to the Mayo Clinic in the US.
Severe MS may lead some people to lose the ability to walk independently or at all.