Scientists at the University of Huddersfield have made a major breakthrough in ways to detect the crippling disease multiple sclerosis.

They have worked out how it can be detected using a simple blood test - up to now the only way to diagnose the disease has been through an invasive and often painful process of collecting fluid from the brain and spine.

The university research has 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.

The discovery will also aid the investigation of the role of the compounds in the disease and assist potential new drug development,

Sean Ward who is an analytical chemist and PhD student based at the University of Huddersfield

The developments are detailed in a new research article co-authored by Sean Ward, who is an analytical chemist and PhD student based at the University of Huddersfield’s IPOS (innovative physical organic solutions) unit.

The report states: “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 project was an element of Sean Ward’s now-completed doctoral research – supervised by the University of Huddersfield’s Professor Michael Page and Dr Nicholas Powles – in which he explored the analytical potential of chemometric software, in particular the package named Mass Profiler Professional (MPP), supplied to IPOS by Agilent Technologies.

Sean said: “Mass spectrometry data is very complex and there can be thousands of compounds in each sample. MPP allows the abundance of each of those compounds to be compared between the samples and can find discrete differences.”