Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a molecule that plays an essential role in sensing and communicating responses to cellular signals. Unlike DNA tests, which can only predict the likelihood of someone having a disease, RNA tests show what is actually happening at a cellular level.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, a poorly understood disorder characterized by deep tissue pain, fatigue, headaches, mood swings and insomnia. It often takes years for a patient to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia and some doctors still refuse to recognize it as a disease.
In 2013, California-based EpicGenetics launched the first fibromyalgia blood test. The FM/a test looks for chemokines and cytokines, which are protein molecules produced by white blood cells. Fibromyalgia patients have fewer chemokines and cytokines than healthy people, according to EpicGenetics, and have weaker immune systems as a result. Critics say the FM/a test is unreliable and the same molecule levels can be found in people with other disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Spurlock says RNA testing is more specific and accurate than DNA or other blood tests used to diagnose autoimmune conditions.
“I think what this test will do is allow for clarity and efficiency in the provider-patient relationship,” he said. “Once we receive the blood samples here, our lab technicians process the sample and we report the result back within a week.”
Last year IQuity launched blood tests to diagnose multiple sclerosis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It hopes to further develop the science to diagnose other autoimmune disorders.