Researchers from ETH Zurich have developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that can ease multiple sclerosis diagnosis and produce more accurate findings. Led by Emily Baadsvik and Markus Weiger from ETH Zurich’s Institute for Biomedical Engineering, the research team created a technique to map myelin sheath conditions for more accurate diagnoses.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling neurological condition that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It occurs when the immune system becomes dysfunctional and starts to attack myelin, the protective sheath that covers and protects nerve fibers, resulting in communication problems between the rest of the body and the brain.
Myelin sheaths coat nerve fibers and facilitate the quick and efficient movement of electrical impulses between nerve cells. Patients can develop issues such as irreversible speech, coordination and speech disorders when myelin sheaths become thinner or sustain damage. The condition affects around 1.2 million people globally and often leads to permanent disability.
However, physicians and researchers have been unable to visualize myelin sheaths accurately enough to properly diagnose and treat multiple sclerosis. The new MRI technique has the potential to increase the efficiency of multiple sclerosis diagnosis and treatment by providing physicians with a more accurate means of mapping myelin.
The novel MRI also has a specialized head scanner that could help physicians diagnose multiple sclerosis in its early stages and monitor the condition’s progression more effectively. It could also open the door to the development of new multiple sclerosis drugs and help researchers visualize other solid types of tissues such as tendons, ligaments and connective tissue better.
Existing MRI devices still cannot capture direct and accurate myelin sheath images, which limits physicians’ ability to diagnose and treat multiple sclerosis. These devices work by using radio waves in a stimulated magnetic field to react to molecules and create images. However, as myelin sheaths mainly consist of proteins, fatty tissue and a little water, current MRI devices generate images by using hydrogen atoms in the water.
The new imaging technique significantly improves image clarity by directly imaging myelin water. It uses numerical values to determine the myelin content in different areas of the brain and determine regions with thinning myelin as well as a customized head scanner to capture the short-lived signals of myelin water.
The researchers plan to test the MRI technique on multiple sclerosis patients. Now that they have tested the technology on tissue samples as well as two healthy individuals, study lead Markus Weiger says is up to industry players to implement the technology and bring it to market.
The successful deployment of this new MRI technique in the field can increase the odds of successful treatment of MS patients when diagnosed early. The novel MS treatments from entities such as Clene Inc. (NASDAQ: CLNN) would be prescribed sooner when disease progression is still low.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Clene Inc. (NASDAQ: CLNN) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/CLNN
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