Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is being used to probe the central nervous system (CNS) of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic demyelinating disease. Conventional T 2 -weighted MRI (cMRI) largely fails to predict the degree of patients' disability. This shortcoming may be due to poor specificity of cMRI for clinically relevant pathology. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has shown promise to be more specific for MS pathology. In this study we investigated the association between histological indices of myelin content, axonal count and gliosis, and two measures of DTI (mean diffusivity [MD] and fractional anisotropy [FA]), in unfixed post mortem MS brain using a 1.5-T MR system. Both MD and FA were significantly lower in post mortem MS brain compared to published data acquired in vivo. However, the differences of MD and FA described in vivo between white matter lesions (WMLs) and normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) were retained in this study of post mortem brain: average MD in WMLs was 0.35×10 −3 mm 2 /s (SD, 0.09) versus 0.22 (0.04) in NAWM; FA was 0.22 (0.06) in WMLs versus 0.38 (0.13) in NAWM. Correlations were detected between myelin content (Tr myelin ) and (i) FA (r=−0.79, p<0.001), (ii) MD (r=0.68, p<0.001), and (iii) axonal count (r=−0.81, p<0.001). Multiple regression suggested that these correlations largely explain the apparent association of axonal count with (i) FA (r=0.70, p<0.001) and (ii) MD (r=−0.66, p<0.001). In conclusion, this study suggests that FA and MD are affected by myelin content and – to a lesser degree – axonal count in post mortem MS brain.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.