Using magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy, researchers at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine developed a method called whole brain N-acetylaspartate (WBNAA) to measure the severity of a patient's MS and gauge how well the drugs used to treat the disease are working.
"WBNAA measures the amount of a chemical in the brain called N-acetylaspartate (NAA) that is exclusive to brain cells," said Oded Gonen, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a professor of radiology at NYU School of Medicine. "MS is a progressive brain disorder that leads to having less and less of the chemical in the brain. The deficit is proportional to the severity of the disease--as is the rate of the loss of the chemical."
The new procedure is performed at the same time the patient undergoes clinical MR imaging. The radiologist adds MR spectroscopy, which provides chemical information at the cellular level. "It adds 10 minutes to the clinical MR imaging," Dr. Gonen said. "It's one-stop shopping for the patient."
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease affecting approximately 400,000 people in the United States, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Over 10,000 new cases of MS are diagnosed each year, mostly among people between the ages of 20 and 50. Women are two to three times more likely than men to develop MS.
MS attacks the central nervous system, resulting in a loss of myelin, the protective layer around nerve fibers. With damaged or lost myelin, the nerves' ability to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain is disrupted, resulting in various symptoms that can include memory loss, d
Contact: Maureen Morley
Radiological Society of North America