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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Neurite dispersion: a new marker of multiple sclerosis spinal cord pathology?



Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the multiple sclerosis spinal cord is limited by low specificity regarding the underlying pathological processes, and new MRI metrics assessing microscopic damage are required. We aim to show for the first time that neurite orientation dispersion (i.e., variability in axon/dendrite orientations) is a new biomarker that uncovers previously undetected layers of complexity of multiple sclerosis spinal cord pathology. Also, we validate against histology a clinically viable MRI technique for dispersion measurement (neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging, NODDI), to demonstrate the strong potential of the new marker.


We related quantitative metrics from histology and MRI in four post mortem spinal cord specimens (two controls; two progressive multiple sclerosis cases). The samples were scanned at high field, obtaining maps of neurite density and orientation dispersion from NODDI and routine diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) indices. Histological procedures provided markers of astrocyte, microglia, myelin and neurofilament density, as well as neurite dispersion.


We report from both NODDI and histology a trend toward lower neurite dispersion in demyelinated lesions, indicative of reduced neurite architecture complexity. Also, we provide unequivocal evidence that NODDI-derived dispersion matches its histological counterpart (P< 0.001), while DTI metrics are less specific and influenced by several biophysical substrates.


Neurite orientation dispersion detects a previously undescribed and potentially relevant layer of microstructural complexity of multiple sclerosis spinal cord pathology. Clinically feasible techniques such as NODDI may play a key role in clinical trial and practice settings, as they provide histologically meaningful dispersion indices.


Quantifying multiple sclerosis pathology in post mortem spinal cord using MRI.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a common inflammatory, demyelinating and degenerative disease of the central nervous system. The majority of people with MS present with symptoms due to spinal cord damage, and in more advanced MS a clinical syndrome resembling that of progressive myelopathy is not uncommon. Significant efforts have been undertaken to predict MS-related disability based on short-term observations, for example, the spinal cord cross sectional area measured using MRI. The histo-pathological correlates of spinal cord MRI changes in MS are incompletely understood, however a surge of interest in tissue microstructure has recently led to new approaches to improve the precision with which MRI indices relate to underlying tissue features, such as myelin content, neurite density and orientation, among others. Quantitative MRI techniques including T1 and T2, magnetisation transfer (MT) and a number of diffusion-derived indices have all been successfully applied to post mortem MS spinal cord. Combining advanced quantification of histological features with quantitative - particularly diffusion-based - MRI techniques provide a new platform for high-quality MR/pathology data generation. To more accurately quantify grey matter pathology in the MS spinal cord, a key driver of physical disability in advanced MS, remains an important challenge of microstructural imaging.



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