Sodium buildup in brain linked to disability in multiple sclerosis

July 17, 2012

A buildup of sodium in the brain detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be a biomarker for the degeneration of nerve cells that occurs in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

The study found that patients with early-stage MS showed accumulation in specific , while patients with more advanced disease showed sodium accumulation throughout the whole brain. Sodium buildup in motor areas of the brain correlated directly to the degree of disability seen in the advanced-stage patients.

"A major challenge with multiple sclerosis is providing patients with a prognosis of disease progression," said Patrick Cozzone, Ph.D., director emeritus of the Center for Magnetic Resonance in Biology and Medicine, a joint unit of National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France. "It's very hard to predict the course of the disease."

In MS, the body's immune system attacks the protective sheath (called myelin) that covers , or neurons, in the brain and spinal cord. The scarring affects the neurons' ability to conduct signals, causing neurological and . The type and severity of , as well as the progression of the disease, vary from one patient to another.

Dr. Cozzone, along with Wafaa Zaaraoui, Ph.D., research officer at CNRS, Jean-Philippe Ranjeva, Ph.D., professor in neuroscience at Aix-Marseille University and a European team of interdisciplinary researchers used 3 Tesla (3T) sodium MRI to study relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), the most common form of the disease in which clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function are followed by periods of recovery. Sodium MRI produces images and information on the of cells in the body.

"We collaborated for two years with chemists and physicists to develop techniques to perform 3T sodium MRI on patients," Dr. Zaaraoui said. "To better understand this disease, we need to probe new molecules. The time has come for probing brain sodium concentrations."

Using specially developed hardware and software, the researchers conducted sodium MRI on 26 MS patients, including 14 with early-stage RRMS (less than five years in duration) and 12 with advanced disease (longer than five years), and 15 age- and sex-matched control participants.

In the early-stage RRMS patients, sodium MRI revealed abnormally high concentrations of sodium in specific brain regions, including the brainstem, cerebellum and temporal pole. In the advanced-stage RRMS patients, abnormally high sodium accumulation was widespread throughout the whole brain, including normal appearing brain tissue.

"In RRMS patients, the amount of sodium accumulation in gray matter associated with the motor system was directly correlated to the degree of patient disability," Dr. Zaaraoui said.

Current treatments for MS are only able to slow the progress of the disease. The use of sodium accumulation as a biomarker of neuron degeneration may assist pharmaceutical companies in developing and assessing potential treatments.

"Brain sodium MR imaging can help us to better understand the disease and to monitor the occurrence of neuronal injury in MS patients and possibly in with other disorders," Dr. Ranjeva said.

Explore further: Using powerful MRI to track iron levels in brain could be new way to monitor progression of MS

More information: "Distribution of Brain Sodium Accumulation Correlates with Disability in Multiple Sclerosis–A Cross-Sectional 23Na MR Imaging Study." Radiology.

Related Stories

Using powerful MRI to track iron levels in brain could be new way to monitor progression of MS

December 15, 2011
Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered a new way to track the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) in those living with the disease, by using a powerful, triple strength MRI to track increasing ...

Neuroscientists' discovery could bring relief to epilepsy sufferers

June 21, 2011
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have made a discovery in the lab that could help drug manufacturers develop new antiepileptic drugs and explore novel strategies for treating seizures associated with ...

Potential impact of cinnamon on multiple sclerosis studied

June 22, 2011
A neurological scientist at Rush University Medical Center has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to evaluate whether cinnamon, a common food spice and flavoring material, may stop the destructive ...

Recommended for you

Immune system can be modulated by targeted manipulation of cell metabolism

August 21, 2017
In its attempt to fight a serious bacterial infection, caused by listeria, for example, the immune system can become so over-activated that the resulting inflammatory response and its consequences can quickly lead to death. ...

Australian researchers in peanut allergy breakthrough

August 17, 2017
Australian researchers have reported a major breakthrough in the relief of deadly peanut allergy with the discovery of a long-lasting treatment they say offers hope that a cure will soon be possible.

Genetic variants found to play key role in human immune system

August 16, 2017
It is widely recognized that people respond differently to infections. This can partially be explained by genetics, shows a new study published today in Nature Communications by an international collaboration of researchers ...

Study identifies a new way to prevent a deadly fungal infection spreading to the brain

August 16, 2017
Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered a way to stop a deadly fungus from 'hijacking' the body's immune system and spreading to the brain.

Biophysics explains how immune cells kill bacteria

August 16, 2017
(Tokyo, August 16) A new data analysis technique, moving subtrajectory analysis, designed by researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, defines the dynamics and kinetics of key molecules in the immune response to an infection. ...

How a nutrient, glutamine, can control gene programs in cells

August 15, 2017
The 200 different types of cells in the body all start with the same DNA genome. To differentiate into families of bone cells, muscle cells, blood cells, neurons and the rest, differing gene programs have to be turned on ...

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.