The research team led by Dr Rohit Bakshi, Director of the Laboratory for Neuroimaging Research and an Associate Professor of Neurology and Radiology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School has found that detecting the gray matter damage in brain can help in identifying those at-risk for progression of disability.
In a four year study, the researchers found that patients with unnatural darkness of gray matter structures as seen on MRI pictures carried a higher risk for progression of physical disability.
This abnormal darkness is referred to as T2 hypointensity, and is suggestive of excessive iron deposits.
They also found that the new marker of gray matter damage showed closer correlations with patients' clinical status than other established MRI markers of disease severity, including lesions, also known as "plaques," and shrinkage of the brain, also know as "atrophy."
"MRI scans obtained from patients with MS are being used to develop measures and techniques that can accurately measure the visible and hidden damage to the brain, especially in gray matter areas and can more accurately predict the course of the disease," said Bakshi.
He said that MRI-based measurement of gray matter damage may be used as a surrogate marker of disease progression.
The findings are published in Journal of Neuroimaging.