A study being carried out in Nottingham aims to pave the way for more personalised treatments for patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Each day, around 14 people are diagnosed with the debilitating disease that can leave people struggling to walk, feeing tired and experiencing muscle weakness or spasms.
However, a breakthrough in the way MS is managed could be on the horizon, thanks to a new study being undertaken at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH).
Researchers will analyse hundreds of MRI scans and clinical data collected from people with MS, with their consent, and apply artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to identify ways of predicting outcomes of MS.
Consultant Neurologist Dr Radu Tanasescu, who is leading the study, said: “At least a third of people with MS, who are on an initial MS treatment, later need to be switched onto a stronger therapy.
“But by identifying early, at diagnosis, patients who are likely to fare worse over the long-term we could offer these patients a more tailored treatment approach.
“This is a crucial step towards ‘personalised medicine’ which means we’ll be able to prescribe the right medication for the right person at the right time.”
He added: “We are trying to understand how people respond to current treatments, and how to treat people in the future.”
The study team’s IT specialists will train a computer to predict whether a person’s MS will mean they will suffer greater disability or cognitive impairment in the long-term.
The study, due to take three years, will involve the data of adults being analysed.
Dr Tanasescu, who sees patients with MS every week in his neurology clinic at the Queen’s Medical Centre, said: “Access to the treatments in MS has been improved recently.
“But, although most people with relapsing MS can benefit from them, and outcomes are improving as a result, no single treatment is right for everybody.
“Some people living with MS will relapse, and over the long term will gather psychical and cognitive disability.
“Despite progress in assessing patients’ response to treatments, individual prediction of MS outcomes over the long-term is still inaccurate.
“The need for information on individualised long-term prognosis for MS patients’ forecasting is frequently unmet.”
MRI scanning, invented in Nottingham by the late Nobel Prize winner Sir Peter Mansfield, is to play a vital part in the AIMS study.
Dr Tanasescu, one of three consultants at NUH awarded a grant from the Medical Research Council, for his research project, said: “We intend to harness more valuable information from routine MRI scans and existing NHS clinical data with our study, which makes the research cost-efficient.
“I am aware of the complexity and challenge in applying AI in a clinical setting.
“But, through collaboration, support from AI experts and a robust plan, we aim to make a breakthrough.”
He added: “We hope this study will have a direct benefit for patients.
“And we aim to expand our knowledge of Multiple Sclerosis using real-world clinical data.”
Dr Emma Gray, head of clinical trials at the MS Society, said: “MS is unpredictable and different for everyone and there isn’t currently a consistent way of predicting what course the condition might take.
“This can be incredibly distressing and make decisions about treatment, family, and life in general very difficult.
“By identifying key factors that appear early on and indicate how someone’s MS might develop, this study could be incredibly important for personalising treatments in the future.
“We look forward to seeing it progress and hope the results might one day give more certainty to those living with MS.”
This content was originally published here.