New Technique That Monitors Water
Particles in Brain May Lead to Early Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers
and other Brain Disorders
ATLANTA, GA -- April 30, 2002 --
A new diagnostic technique (tensor diffusion imaging) that measures the motion
of water particles in a person's brain is showing promise in better diagnosing
multiple sclerosis. It is being used to monitor the progress of children treated
for deadly Krabbe disease, and it may be useful in more common brain disorders,
such as Alzheimer's disease, researchers at Duke University Medical Center
"Tensor diffusion imaging is a form of MR
imaging that allows radiologists to measure the rate and direction of water
particles in the white matter structures of the brain," says James
Provenzale, MD, professor of radiology. The white matter structures connect
regions of the brain that are important for movement and speech; water particles
in specific parts of the brain tend to move in well-defined directions if the
white matter is normal, says Dr. Provenzale. "Tensor diffusion imaging
allows us to find changes in the white matter of multiple sclerosis (MS)
patients that we can't see on standard MR images," says Dr. Provenzale.
"Standard MR images can show plaques (the areas of white matter affected by
the disease), but by the time the plaque shows up on the MR image, the patient
usually has more advanced disease. In addition, the MR images can appear
somewhat normal, while the patient has severe symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
The images don't necessarily correlate well with the patient's actual
condition," says Dr. Provenzale.
"When we scanned MS patients with standard MR
then with diffusion tensor imaging, we found that the area around the plaque,
which had looked normal on the standard MR image, was actually abnormal,"
says Dr. Provenzale. "Furthermore, we found that other areas of the white
matter were also abnormal on tensor diffusion imaging even though they looked
normal on standard MR images," he says. "Tensor imaging is allowing us
to more accurately detect abnormalities in MS patients, which may allow us to
diagnose the disease before the patient has any symptoms; early detection can
mean earlier treatment," Dr. Provenzale says. Dr. Provenzale predicts that
radiologists will eventually be able to use tensor diffusion imaging in brain
disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, to determine who will develop the
symptoms of the disease and the effectiveness of treatments.
Currently, Duke researchers are using tensor
diffusion imaging in Krabbe disease, a rare but deadly disease, that affects
infants. "The disease is hereditary," says Dr. Provenzale. Until
recently, there was no way of treating these patients or monitoring their
progress. Duke researchers are now performing umbilical cord transplantation and
are "having good results when the transplantation is performed very
early," says Dr. Provenzale. "Tensor imaging plays an important role
in the evaluation and treatment of this disease. We are using it to detect the
brain abnormalities earlier and to monitor the success of treatment," he
says. "We are finding that if we scan patients at risk for the disease
within the first month of life, and begin treatment immediately, their brains
remain more similar to those of normal children than those infants treated
later," he says.
Tensor diffusion imaging is still being
investigated, but Dr. Provenzale predicts that it will soon be more widely
Dr. Provenzale will be a keynote speaker at the
American Roentgen Ray Society annual meeting April 30 in Atlanta, GA.
SOURCE: American Roentgen Ray Society