A study published in JAMA Neurology in mid-August showed that brain MRI scans can show chronic, active lesions from multiple sclerosis (MS). They appear in the form of “darkened outer rims.” The study was led by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s MD, PhD Daniel S. Reich.
“We found that it is possible to use brain scans to detect which patients are highly susceptible to more aggressive forms of MS,” Reich wrote in a press release on EurekAlert. He continued: “The more chronic active lesions a patient has, the greater the chances they will experience this type of MS. We hope these results will help test the effectiveness of new therapies for this form of MS and reduce the suffering patients experience.”
For the study, the research team scanned the brains of 192 patients who had MS, 56% of whom had at least one chronic, active lesion. Of that population, 22% had four or more lesions, 34% had 1-3 lesions, and 44% had what are described as “rimless” lesions. Then, the scans were compared to exams patients received when first enrolled at the same Clinical Center at the NIH. They found that patients with four or more lesions were 1.6 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of progressive MS than those without.
In his statement, Reich wrote: “Our results support the idea that chronic active lesions are very damaging to the brain. We need to attack these lesions as early as possible.”
MS is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s own immune system to attack its central nervous system. In the central nervous system itself, the immune system of those with MS causes inflammation that damages the fatty substance that insulates nerve fibers (myelin), as well as the actual fibers themselves, and the cells responsible for producing myelin.