People with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) have poorer neurite density — a measure that relates to the amount of nerve cell projections, including axons and dendrites involved in nerve-to-nerve communication — in the brain and spinal cord than do those without this disease, a study shows.
This measure, especially in the spinal cord, correlates with physical disability, its researchers report.
Their study, “Reduced neurite density in the brain and cervical spinal cord in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: A NODDI study,” was published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.
Neuronal degeneration is a significant component of disease progression in MS. However, exactly how specific alterations in nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord relate to physical and cognitive disability is not clear.
Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of the central nervous system in MS patients could help in understanding this relationship, but the time required to build the series of scans that might relate neurodegeneration to disability weighs against this approach.
Neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI) is a MRI technique that allows scientists to evaluate, specifically and accurately, the structure of brain tissue. It provides values that relate to neurite density and orientation, which indirectly indicate neurodegeneration.
Using it, they assessed the brain and cervical spinal cord — the spine’s top portion, corresponding to neck vertebrae — of 28 RRMS patients, between 18 and 65, and compared the results to those of 20 healthy controls of similar age and gender.
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