MRI Could Help in MS Diagnosis

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Based on a recent study, researchers have managed to find a way of attuning magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning so that they may effectively assist in diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS) earlier in order to track its progression.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has discovered a means to enhance an MRI method known as quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM).

The scanning approach could prove "an important tool for diagnosing and tracking the progression of MS and other neurological diseases," note the researchers from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

The study was led by Ravi Menon, PhD, an expert in functional MRI (fMRI) with a Canada Research Chair in the subject.

"The power of the new imaging approach is in quantifying nerve changes and separating the white matter degeneration observed in MS (myelin damage, which affects nerve insulation) from iron deposition," said mri

Menon also cites the ability to track the neurodegenerative changes over time, which could lead to future diagnostic tools to monitor and observe patients' MS disease progression.

"With this methodology, we now have a quantitative way to interpret myelin and iron concentrations, and in particular, any changes to them over time. We've been doing these scans on MS patients for a while," he adds, "but nobody knew if it was a valid approach or not. We now know how to interpret the data," he said.

Additionally, the new fine-tuned MRI method has ushered in new forms of technological development to standard imaging.

"It allows us to separate changes in white matter degeneration, from other changes such as iron deposition, which in conventional imaging all looks the same," stated Menon.

The researchers discovered that the most common strategy to creating QSM images was "insufficient to generate quantitative images," the data provided by the MRI images did not enable measurement of the myelin and iron content.

They found this lack of sensitivity by changing the orientation of the MRI scanner signal, using a set up that rotated a rat's brain so that it could be scanned from 18 different angles.

The brain scans were then sent to the histology department for comparison. The scientists associated scan data with these laboratory findings of "the microstructure of the brain" such as myelin concentration and integrity, and iron deposition.

The study is the first of its kind to locate a connection between MRI and histology measurement, meaning that the new imaging method could now be applied in clinical practice.

As of now, the researchers wish to further the study and note all the changes observed in MS and find out if they align with the disease's progression.

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