Molecular/cellular imaging (MRI)

Principle investigator:   Prof. Dr. Markus Rudin

Research focus

MRI is now considered the most sensitive technique for diagnosing MS and according to the revised McDonald criteria, diagnosis of MS can be made by MRI at first manifestation. Contrast-enhanced MRI (CE-MRI) assessing BBB leakage and T2-weighted MRI assessing inflammatory processes are essential in MS diagnosis. Yet, inflammation-based MRI approaches are of limited prognostic value and emphasis of neurodegenerative readouts has been suggested. A global, unspecific marker of neurodegeneration is brain atrophy, which begins early in MS (Filippi et al. 2011). More specific indicators are readouts of demyelination, axonal loss, astrogliosis. MRI magnetization transfer (MTR) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) specifically target neurodegenerative aspects of MS pathology. MTR is considered a measure of the degree of myelination and integrity of the myelin sheath (Schmierer et al. 2004), whereas axonal integrity may be inferred from DTI data. Neurodegenerative processes will translate into functional deficits as demonstrated in fMRI studies (Filippi & Rocca 2009, Bonavita et al. 2011). In addition characteristic changes in the neurochemical profile have been reported that can be probed using magnetic resonance spectroscopy and spectroscopic imaging.