Myelin and axon pathology in multiple sclerosis assessed by myelin water and multi-shell diffusion imaging
Brain: A Journal of Neurology | March 9, 2021
Rahmanzadeh R, Lu PJ, Barakovic M, Weigel M, Maggi P, Nguyen TD, Schiavi S, Daducci A, La Rosa F, Schaedelin S, Absinta M, Reich DS, Sati P, Wang Y, Cuadra MB, Radue EW, Kuhle J, Kappos L and Granziera C
Brain, 2021;, awab088
This study was performed using a Simoa homebrew assay.
Damage to the myelin sheath and the neuroaxonal unit is a cardinal feature of multiple sclerosis; however, a detailed characterization of the interaction between myelin and axon damage in vivo remains challenging.
We applied myelin water and multi-shell diffusion imaging to quantify the relative damage to myelin and axons (i) among different lesion types; (ii) in normal-appearing tissue; and (iii) across multiple sclerosis clinical subtypes and healthy controls. We also assessed the relation of focal myelin/axon damage with disability and serum neurofilament light chain as a global biological measure of neuroaxonal damage.
Ninety-one multiple sclerosis patients (62 relapsing-remitting, 29 progressive) and 72 healthy controls were enrolled in the study. Differences in myelin water fraction and neurite density index were substantial when lesions were compared to healthy controls and normal-appearing MS tissue: both white matter and cortical lesions exhibited a decreased myelin water fraction and neurite density index compared with healthy (P < 0.0001) and peri-plaque white matter (P < 0.0001). Periventricular lesions showed decreased myelin water fraction and neurite density index compared with lesions in the juxtacortical region (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.05). Similarly, lesions with paramagnetic rims showed decreased myelin water fraction and neurite density index relative to lesions without a rim (P < 0.0001). Also, in 75% of white matter lesions, the reduction in neurite density index was higher than the reduction in the myelin water fraction.
Besides, normal-appearing white and grey matter revealed diffuse reduction of myelin water fraction and neurite density index in multiple sclerosis compared to healthy controls (P < 0.01). Further, a more extensive reduction in myelin water fraction and neurite density index in normal-appearing cortex was observed in progressive versus relapsing-remitting participants. Neurite density index in white matter lesions correlated with disability in patients with clinical deficits (P < 0.01, beta=-10.00); and neurite density index and myelin water fraction in white matter lesions were associated to serum neurofilament light chain in the entire patients cohort (P < 0.01, beta=-3.60 and P < 0.01, beta=0.13, respectively).
These findings suggest that (i) myelin and axon pathology in multiple sclerosis is extensive in both lesions and normal-appearing tissue; (ii) particular types of lesions exhibit more damage to myelin and axons than others; (iii) progressive patients differ from relapsing-remitting because of more extensive axon/myelin damage in the cortex; and (iv) myelin and axon pathology in lesions is related to disability in patients with clinical deficits and global measures of neuroaxonal damage.
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