High-tech spectroscopy may be used to monitor neuropsychiatric symptoms

November 13, 2006

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) may provide a noninvasive way to monitor neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with lupus, according to results from research in mice at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

"This study is the first to demonstrate that MRS is a feasible method to monitor neuropsychiatric symptoms in lupus," said Nilamadhab Mishra, M.D., the principal investigator, in a presentation at the American College of Rheumatology meeting in Washington.

MRS is closely related to MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and uses strong magnetic fields and low energy radio waves to get biochemical information about the body. The test is done in an MRI machine to which a spectrometer has been attached to measure changes in metabolites, such as the levels of glutamate and glutamine.

"Because of its noninvasiveness and repeatable nature, MRS could be helpful in the drug discovery program for neuropsychiatric lupus," said Mishra, an assistant professor of rheumatology. He explained, "No definitive biomarker of neuropsychiatric lupus is available and this impedes both clinical diagnosis and drug discovery for treatment of this condition."

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), in neuropsychiatric lupus, there are a wide variety of associated neurological and psychiatric syndromes and cognitive problems.

NIAMS, which is supporting Mishra's work, said that about 20 percent of lupus patients have neuropsychiatric symptoms and it is one of the major causes of death among people with lupus. Systemic lupus affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, mostly women.

In his study, Mishra is using mice that have a defective gene and spontaneously develop lupus, including lymph node swelling and increased spleen size. He is comparing these animals with control animals that do not have lupus.

His results showed "a dramatic decrease" in the ratio of two biochemicals, glutamate and glutamine as measured by MRS in the mice with lupus compared with control mice as early as seven weeks of life, which directly paralleled behavioral tests. Other biochemical pairs also showed changes, but not as dramatically as glutamate/glutamine. At 11 and 15 weeks, there were significant further decreases in the glutamate/glutamine ratio.

Mishra and his colleagues tested cognitive performance using a water maze test, a standard test to assess spatial learning and memory in rodents. "The water maze test measures memory, learning and cognitive function. We correlated the changes in metabolites in different age groups to behavior changes," he said.

The mice in the lupus group had significantly poorer cognitive function at seven weeks, tracking the decline in the glutamate/glutamine ratio. Cognitive function "continued to deteriorate further with advancing age, whereas there was no change in control mice."

"This tells us that MRS can be useful for monitoring the disease instead of time-consuming behavioral studies," he said. The changes in the glutamate/glutamine ratio indicate that the neuropsychiatric lupus is getting progressively worse.

But precisely how the biochemical changes equate to neuropsychiatric symptoms in people will await future human studies, he said.

Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

Explore further: A surprising new link between inflammation and mental illness

Related Stories

A surprising new link between inflammation and mental illness

June 14, 2017
Up to 75 percent of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus—an incurable autoimmune disease commonly known as lupus—experience neuropsychiatric symptoms. But so far, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying lupus' ...

Case illuminates immune system-psychiatric disorder link

January 26, 2015
The case of Paul Michael Nelson, a boy living in Half Moon Bay, illustrates an alarming phenomenon: Your immune system can make you go crazy.

ENCODE project: Researchers unlock disease information hidden in genome's control circuitry

September 5, 2012
Researchers at the University of Washington have determined that the majority of genetic changes associated with more than 400 common diseases and clinical traits affect the genome's regulatory circuitry. These are the regions ...

Recommended for you

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

Age and gut bacteria contribute to multiple sclerosis disease progression

November 17, 2017
Researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School published a study suggesting that gut bacteria at young age can contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) disease onset and progression.

Molecular guardian defends cells, organs against excess cholesterol

November 16, 2017
A team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has illuminated a critical player in cholesterol metabolism that acts as a molecular guardian in cells to help maintain cholesterol levels within a safe, ...

Prototype ear plug sensor could improve monitoring of vital signs

November 16, 2017
Scientists have developed a sensor that fits in the ear, with the aim of monitoring the heart, brain and lungs functions for health and fitness.

Ancient enzyme could boost power of liquid biopsies to detect and profile cancers

November 16, 2017
Scientists are developing a set of medical tests called liquid biopsies that can rapidly detect the presence of cancers, infectious diseases and other conditions from only a small blood sample. Researchers at The University ...

FDA to crack down on risky stem cell offerings

November 16, 2017
U.S. health authorities announced plans Thursday to crack down on doctors pushing stem cell procedures that pose the gravest risks to patients amid an effort to police a burgeoning medical field that previously has received ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.