Injury to white matter tracts in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: A possible therapeutic window within the first 5 years from onset using diffusion-tensor imaging tract-based spatial statistics

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Abstract

DTI studies in multiple sclerosis (MS) reveal white matter (WM) injury that occurs with disease progression. In the present study we aimed to elucidate the relationship of microstructural WM damage in patients with varying periods of disease duration. DTI scans were acquired from 90 MS patients and 25 healthy controls. Patients were grouped to short (<1 year), moderate (1 up to 6 years) and long (6-10 years) disease duration periods. Statistical analyses of the fractional anisotropy (FA) data were performed using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). Whole-brain skeletal FA measurements showed a significant decrease between healthy controls and the short MS disease duration group, as well as between moderate disease duration and long disease duration groups, but failed to show a significant difference between short and moderate disease duration groups. Voxelwise analysis revealed clusters of diffuse FA reductions in 40 WM tracts when comparing healthy controls and MS short disease duration group, with the point of maximal significant difference located in the left inferior longitudinal fasciculus. Comparing short with long disease duration groups, progressive FA reduction was demonstrated across 30 WM tracts, with the point of maximal significant difference migrating to the body of the corpus callosum. A non-linear pattern of WM microstructure disruption occurs in RRMS. Alterations are seen early in the disease course within 1 year from onset, reach a plateau within the next 5 years, and only later additional WM changes are detected. An important period of a possible therapeutic window therefore exists within the early disease stage.

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Asaf, A., Evan, S., & Anat, A. (2015). Injury to white matter tracts in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: A possible therapeutic window within the first 5 years from onset using diffusion-tensor imaging tract-based spatial statistics. NeuroImage: Clinical, 8, 261–266. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2015.04.020

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