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J Neurol Sci. 2009 Jan 15;276(1-2):49-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2008.08.022. Epub 2008 Sep 25.

Longitudinal changes in myelin water fraction in two MS patients with active disease.

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Department of Radiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterised by focal areas that undergo cycles of demyelination and remyelination. Although conventional magnetic resonance imaging is very effective in localising areas of damage, these techniques are not pathology specific. A newer technique, T(2) relaxation, can separate water from brain into three compartments: (1) a long T(2) component (>2 s) arising from CSF, (2) an intermediate T(2) component (~80 ms) attributed to intra- and extra-cellular water and (3) a short T(2) component (~20 ms) assigned to water trapped in between the myelin bilayers (termed myelin water). Histological evidence shows that myelin water is a specific marker of myelination. The goal of this work was to follow changes in total water content (WC) and myelin water fraction (MWF) in evolving MS lesions over one year. Multi-echo T(2) relaxation data was collected and used to measure water content and myelin water fraction from three new MS lesions in two patients. WC increased in the three large (>1 cm(3)) lesions at lesion appearance and remained elevated in the central core. Two lesions showed low MWF in the core suggesting demyelination upon first appearance. At later time points, one lesion showed a decrease in volume of low MWF, reflecting remyelination whereas the volume of low MWF in the other lesion core remained constant. This work provides evidence that MWF and WC can monitor demyelination and remyelination in MS.

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