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Early stages of multiple sclerosis detected by University of Western Ontario

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On Monday, an announcement that came from University of Western Ontario (UWO) showcased how researchers were able to develop a superior way of tracking multiple sclerosis (MS) progression. They call it the Quantitative Susceptibility (QS) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or “QS” for short, and they believe disease progression will drop exponentially with its use.

Regular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is what is currently used and although they can go deeper into the brain than x-rays and CAT scans, they can still miss even deeper parts of the brain where damaged myelin can be. Many times, patients will be frustrated because they have symptoms but their MRIs will come back showing nothing wrong.

Head researcher Ravi Menon, PhD, said about the QS that changes were sophisticated “on a parts per billion level” and when using it they were able to note the beginning of degeneration and see the amount of iron accumulation. Iron deposits in the brain is a common denominator of those with the disease but it is not known at this time whether is it a cause or effect.

Menon said, “Even at the very earliest stages of the disease when the disability score is very low, or when the person hasn’t yet been diagnosed with MS, there’s already significant damage” which means that he isn’t being dramatic when he noted early detection with therapy could slow or even halt disease progression and save an estimated $100 billion in costs.

The researchers had tested 25 patients who either had relapsing-remitting MS or had clinically isolated syndrome, CIS can lead to MS, and 15 control subjects with the standard Siemens 3T MRI. They found using the QS mapping technique the same damage in all who had been diagnosed with MS and using the Extended Disability Status Score (EDSS), the correlation was compelling.

They were also able to see some damage in those with CIS. “Significantly, in white matter, even where we see no lesions whatsoever, we’re able to measure damage in the same area of all patients using QS mapping. So even at the very earliest stages of the disease when the disability score is very low, or when the person hasn’t yet been diagnosed with MS, there’s already significant damage,” Menon stated.

A plus side to this all is the Siemens 3T MRI can be reproduced in any hospital using the QS technique the researchers had developed.

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