Monday, March 6, 2017

How MRIs Can Help Monitor the Progression of ALS for Better Treatment

A recent study published in "Neuroimage: Clinical" found that the progression of ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease, can be monitored through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. ALS is a very rare nervous system disease that still doesn't have a cure. Scientists have been working to better understand the disease in order to develop cures. The cause of Lou Gehrig's disease is still unknown as well.

Fortunately, medication and therapy can minimize discomfort and slow down progression. An MRI test can help monitor the progression of ALS for better treatment. Here's a look at important findings from the "Longitudinal evaluation of cerebral and spinal cord damage in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis" study:

The Brain Stem Decreased in Size

One of the most important findings in this study of 27 ALS patients and 27 health controls is the brain stems of the ALS patients decreased in size. Researchers had assessed the study's participants eight months after the initial assessment to find a significant reduction in brain stem size of those with Lou Gehrig's disease.

Diffusivity of Water Molecules Increased

Diffusivity is the ability of a substance to pass through a membrane. In the study, researchers noticed an increase in diffusivity of water molecules in the corpus callosum of patients with ALS. The corpus callosum is a bundle of nerve fibers in the brain that connects left and right hemispheres. It enables communication between the two hemispheres. Increase in diffusivity links to cerebral white matter loss, but didn't correlate with changes in the severity or duration of ALS.

Decreased Spinal Cord Size

The spinal cord size in patients with Lou Gehrig's disease decreased during this study. Unlike the increased diffusivity of the corpus callosum, the decrease in spinal cord size was correlated with changes in disease severity. In other words, as the spinal cord decreases in size, the severity of Lou Gehrig's disease may increase. Researchers have concluded that measuring spinal cord size is a key indicator of disease progression.

MRIs can lend insight on the progression of ALS. The spinal cord and brain stem decreased in size during this study conducted on Lou Gehrig's disease. Diffusivity of the corpus callosum increased as well, leading to a decrease in white matter integrity. These insights will help researchers not only monitor progression of the disease but create new ways to treat or slow down ALS.

MRI Could Serve as Useful Biomarker to Assess ALS Progression, Study Suggests,
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