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Jamestown native develops test to detect MS in patients

Nancy Monson, center, received an award for her research in early detection of multiple sclerosis in November.

A new medical test developed by a Jamestown native can detect if patients will develop multiple sclerosis earlier than before.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain where patients can suffer basic motor dysfunctions.

The test, titled “MSprecise,” will be available to clinicians this year, said Nancy Monson, the developer of the test. MSprecise tests patients’ spinal fluid, which is similar to the fluid that cushions the brain, for antibodies that destroy the brain of patients with multiple sclerosis, Monson said.

Prior to Monson’s discovery, it could take doctors up to a year to diagnose a patient with multiple sclerosis after his or her first attack, Monson said. Monson described an “attack” as a basic motor function failing, such as losing sight in an eye or losing feeling in a leg while running.

“When patients have one attack, doctors tell them to go home and wait for the next attack,”

Monson said. “Can you imagine how much of your brain can be damaged in a year? With a test like this, it helps doctors have confidence that the patient will develop MS (multiple sclerosis), and then (doctors) can treat (patients) sooner.”

Because of her discovery, Monson was selected for the 2015 Volunteer Hall of Fame for Researchers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Hall of Fame. She received her award Nov. 11 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Monson developed the test at University of Texas Southwestern, where she went for her postdoctoral fellowship after graduating from graduate school at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Today, Monson is an associate professor in neurology and immunology at University of Texas Southwestern. While attending Jamestown High School, Monson was first a lab tech for Tom Olson’s biology class.

“It was unbelievable how she took over the lab,” Olson said.

Olson recalled being at the International Science and Engineering Fair with Monson, held at various locations, where she would argue with the judges about the facts of her projects because she was so confident in her work.

Olson also said Monson would stay up late on school nights, til 2 or 3 a.m., reading literature about biology. He said “It was a pleasure to see her work,” and he wasn’t surprised when he heard of her award because he knew she was destined for greatness.

Benjamin Greenberg, a colleague of Monson, agreed with Olson, saying that Monson keeps a very precise, organized and well-run lab.

“When we see results out of Nancy’s lab we have a lot of trust in them,” he said.

Greenberg said he feels fortunate to work with Monson.

“To sit at an event or a dinner (with her), you’ll go from discussing her horses to the biology of a B cell in 60 seconds,” he said. “She moves with ease, she is a real person.”

Greenberg also commented on Monson’s concern for patients with multiple sclerosis.

“She is not just someone who is looking to make a discovery in the lab but someone who is really committed to improving the lives of people with MS,” he said.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by JAMESTOWNSUN
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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