Researchers at University College London (UCL) have developed new MRI techniques which can detect previously unseen changes in the brains of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Med-Tech News reports. By identifying changes at an earlier stage, patients will have a more accurate prediction about how their condition will progress.
Currently, MRI scans are used to diagnose and monitor the progression of MS, by highlighting areas of myelin damage. However, they don’t provide the full picture, as research on brain tissue donated by MS sufferers after their death shows evidence of other changes taking place.
The research team combined advanced MRI techniques to observe 42 patients who were within their first three months of experiencing MS symptoms. Compared with symptom-free individuals, the results showed changes in sodium concentration in the nerves, and to the structure of the nerves at a microscopic level.
Dr Sara Collorone, who led the study, said: “MRI plays a vital role in how we diagnose MS and monitor it throughout someone’s life, and that has been the case for decades. But traditional techniques don’t tell us the whole story.”
“This development is exciting because these new techniques go way beyond what we can do with conventional MRI, allowing us to see damage and alterations in brain tissue that we haven’t seen before.”
The researchers published their finding in the journal Brain. They plan to follow people with MS over a period of time, to establish if there is a link between the presence of the changes and the development of the disease. MS can be very unpredictable, which is a major cause of concern for those affected, and can make planning for the future difficult.
Over time, MS causes inflammation and nerve loss, resulting in severe disability. If levels of future disability can be predicted, it will help in the management of the condition, and provide greater peace of mind for sufferers.
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