Johns Hopkins researchers are peering into a familiar place to stop multiple sclerosis

They say the eyes are the window to the soul, but they may also be the window to the cure.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore have devised a new way to assess precise treatments for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). They are looking deeply into patients’ eyes.

By measuring the optic nerves in patients, researchers can gauge how much overall neurological damage has occurred in people with MS – bringing doctors closer to a significant advance in halting the progressive disease, report scientists at Johns Hopkins.

“We’re able to collect and combine data from these measurements and actually predict what’s going to happen to those measures over time,” says Dr. Ellen Mowry, associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

“That means for a person living with multiple sclerosis, we are on the cusp of identifying … what medication might work best for them, and how we can help prevent their own specific long-term disability,” Mowry says.

Nearly 1 million people in the U.S. are believed to be living with MS. The disease involves autoimmune inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, prompting neurological symptoms that come and go.

In time, the inflammatory attacks irreversibly damage the insulating covers of nerve wires, causing a slow accumulation of disability. The average lifespans of people with MS are about seven years less than the general population, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.