Post-Polio Health International Awards Research Grant

Post-Polio Health International has awarded a $25,000 research grant to a team from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Little Rock.

The researchers are determining whether there is a unique signature, or disease biomarker, in the immune system of people with post-polio syndrome (PPS) that would enable a more definitive diagnosis of PPS.

Biomarkers, biological measures associated with specific diseases, are useful because they can assist in disease diagnosis or provide a means of monitoring disease development and progression. The researchers at UAMS recently detected the increased presence of a distinct immune cell population in the blood of individuals with PPS but not healthy individuals; although the number of donors examined was small. The detected cells represent a recently described subtype of T cells, known as regulatory T cells (Tregs).

The research award from Post-Polio Health International will fund a small pilot study that will determine whether the development of PPS is associated with increased numbers of Tregs and whether the Tregs found in individuals with PPS have unusual properties as compared with those in healthy individuals.

"We are very grateful to PHI for their support of this research," says principal investigator Dr. Rahnuma Wahid, postdoctoral research assistant, microbiology and immunology department, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "Although the research is in its very early stages and our initial results need to be rigorously tested in a much larger group of individuals with PPS, a biomarker for PPS that can be potentially measured in an individual's blood should enable a more rapid and more definitive diagnosis of this debilitating disease."

"A definitive diagnosis of PPS is difficult because it is based on past history, which may be lost or incomplete, or dependent on recall," says Joan L. Headley, executive director of Post-Polio Health International. "The diagnosis is complex and unreliable because many symptoms of PPS overlap those of other diseases including osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism and a number of neurological conditions. Because available treatments are limited, finding a definitive test for PPS would not only help with a diagnosis but would also help develop potentially more effective therapies."

PPS is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disease that occurs many years later in people previously affected by paralytic poliomyelitis due to the poliovirus infection. The causes of PPS are unknown, but it is characterized primarily by new muscle weakness that negatively affects the quality of life of survivors.

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