July 12, 2013

Methods for imaging myelin loss

Certain MRI metrics can be used to assess myelin loss in multiple sclerosis, which is important for planning and monitoring therapy.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS) – an inflammatory disease in which the myelin sheaths around brain and spinal cord neurons are damaged and lost. Current MRI methods, however, do not quantify the extent of myelin loss, which is important for treatment planning and for monitoring disease progression and response to therapy.

To develop methods for quantifying demyelination, Daniel Gochberg, Ph.D., associate professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, and colleagues compared various MRI measures to quantitative myelin histology in an animal model of MS. They performed quantitative magnetization transfer imaging (qMT) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) – and then myelin histology – on the same tissue structures in the animals. They report in the July 1 issue of NeuroImage that certain qMT and DTI metrics correlated with the histological measure of myelin content.

The findings suggest that the qMT and DTI metrics are sensitive markers for demyelination and may be useful tools in the development of new strategies to treat MS.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (EB001452, EB001744) and from Vanderbilt University (Bridge Funding).