Lesions, or damage, in the white matter of the brain are important markers to track disease progression in several conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS). Recently, a collaborative study including LUMC and LEGend researchers used a fast MRI approach called multi-component MR Fingerprinting (MRF) to compare components with increased water content in the white matter, often indicating lesions, between patients with and without MS.

They conducted MRI scans on 48 MS patients and 12 healthy controls at two different locations, using both MRF and FLAIR scans, with FLAIR being the current standard to detect these lesions. The MRF scans were analyzed using a complex method to create maps representing different brain tissues like myelin water (between the fatty sheaths around brain neurons), white matter, gray matter, and cerebrospinal fluid. In these maps, they found structural white matter changes that were more extensive than they appeared on the FLAIR scans in 73% of the MS patients.

In conclusion, the MRF technique effectively detected white matter tissue changes in MS patients, which were more extensive than those visible on traditional FLAIR scans. This innovative method provides a new way to measure the extent of white matter changes in patient populations. As a translational step, this method could also be used to speed up brain scans of ageing-related diseases, such as cerebral small vessel disease and dementias. Such a study is currently underway in the LUMC and will hopefully bring more insight into the white matter brain changes in a broad array of elderly patients with cognitive complaints.

Read the full article here.