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Volume 39 Number 2, March/April 2002
Pages 243 — 260


MR-based technology for in vivo detection, characterization, and quantification of pathology of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis
Marco Rovaris, MD, and Massimo Filippi, MD
Neuroimaging Research Unit, Department of Neuroscience, Scientific Institute and University Ospedale San Raffaele, Milan, Italy
Abstract — In relapsing-remitting (RR) multiple sclerosis (MS), conventional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging (MRI) has proved to be a valuable tool to assess the lesion burden and activity over time. However, conventional MRI cannot characterize and quantify the tissue damage within and outside such lesions and only can provide some gross measures reflecting the presence of irreversible tissue damage, such as the load of T1 "black holes" and the severity of brain or cord atrophy. Other MR-based techniques, including cell-specific imaging, magnetization transfer (MT) MRI (MT-MRI), diffusion-weighted (DW) MRI (DW-MRI), proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS), and functional MRI (fMRI), have the potential to overcome this limitation and, consequently, to provide additional information about the nature and the extent of MS tissue damage, which would inevitably remain undetected when only a conventional MRI is obtained. Cell-specific imaging should result in a better definition of the cellular mechanisms associated with MS inflammation. Metrics derived from MT- and DW-MRI can quantify the structural changes occurring within and outside lesions visible on conventional MRI scans. 1H-MRS could add information on the biochemical nature of such changes. fMRI is a promising technique to assess the mechanisms of cortical reorganization, which may limit the consequences of an MS-related injury. The application of these MR techniques to the study of RRMS is likely to provide useful insights into the pathophysiology of this disease and to improve our ability to assess the efficacy of experimental treatments.

Key words: cell-specific imaging, diffusion-weighted MRI, functional MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, magnetization transfer MRI, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
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