It is important that multiple sclerosis (MS) is diagnosed and treated as early as possible in order to delay the progression of the disease. The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique plays a key role in this process. In the search for ever better methods, a new MRI technique has been used at MedUni Vienna in a research project that could pave the way for faster assessment of disease activity in MS. The study was conducted by a research team led by Wolfgang Bogner from the Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-Guided Therapy at MedUni Vienna and was recently published in the journal Radiology.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that manifests itself by changes (lesions) mainly in the brain. Currently, there is no cure for MS, but it can be treated effectively. Early diagnosis is critical to prognosis, with very detailed imaging techniques playing a major role. Although conventional MRI can detect brain damage, scientists are looking for methods to detect changes at an earlier microscopic or biochemical stage. The method known as proton MR spectroscopy has been identified as a promising tool for this purpose.
Using this technique, the research group led by Eva Niess (formerly Heckova) and Wolfgang Bogner from the Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-Guided Therapy at MedUni Vienna, together with scientists from the Department of Neurology at MedUni Vienna , went even further in their recently published study. . The team used MR spectroscopy with a 7 Tesla magnet to compare neurochemical changes in the brains of 65 MS patients with those of 20 healthy controls. This particularly powerful imaging tool was co-developed by researchers at MedUni Vienna and has been used for scientific studies, for example on the brain, at the MedUni Vienna Center of Excellence for High Field MRI since its commissioned in 2008.
Identify and predict changes
Using 7 tesla MRI, researchers at MedUni Vienna have now been able to identify MS-relevant neurochemicals, i.e. chemicals involved in the functioning of the nervous system. “It allowed us to visualize brain changes in regions that look normal on conventional MRIs,” says study leader Wolfgang Bogner, highlighting one of the study’s key findings. According to the study’s lead author, Eva Niess, these findings could play an important role in the management of MS patients in the future: “Some neurochemical changes that we were able to visualize with the new technique occur early in the course of the disease and could not only be correlated with disability, but also predict disease progression.”
Clinical studies and further developments follow
Further research is needed before these findings can be incorporated into clinical applications, Niess and Bogner explain. They say the results already show that 7 tesla spectroscopic magnetic resonance imaging is a valuable new tool in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and in the treatment of MS patients.
“If the results are confirmed in further studies, this novel neuroimaging technique could become a standard imaging tool for initial diagnosis and for monitoring disease activity and treatment in MS patients,” says Wolfgang Bogner, looking to the future. The method is currently only available on the only 7 Tesla MRI scanner in Austria at MedUni Vienna and only for research purposes. However, the science team led by Eva Niess and Wolfgang Bogner is working to refine the new method for use in routine clinical MRI scanners.
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Material provided by Medical University of Vienna. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.