Multiple sclerosis (MS) and MOG-associated disorders (MOGad) are characterized by hyperintense white matter (WM) lesions on T2/FLAIR MRI. Conventional imaging is sensitive but does not inform on the specific pathological substrate. Magnetization transfer saturation provides a good myelin measure, and multishell diffusion is sensitive to the axon + myelin assembly. Together, these can be modelled to estimate myelin volume fraction (MVF), axonal volume fraction (AVF) and imaging g-ratio.
To quantify gradients of damage to axons and myelin in lesions and surrouding normal appearing white matter, in pediatric MS and MOGad.
15 MS [67% females (F), mean (range) age [years (y)]: 17y (14-18), disease duration (DD) 3y (0-6), time from last relapse (TLR) 2y (0-6)] and 7 MOGad [86% F, 13y (8-18), DD 3y (0-6), TLR 1y (0-3), 6/7 relapsing] participants received 3T brain MRI. MVF, AVF and g-ratio were computed according to established procedures. T2 lesions were segmented according to standardized pipelines and WM masks by multi-atlas segmentation. Euclidean distance transforms labelled voxels in normal-appearing WM with the distance to the nearest lesion voxel, and voxels inside lesions with the distance to the nearest non-lesional WM voxel. Mean MVF, AVF and g-ratio were computed on each isodistant surface. Data were modeled using linear mixed models with distance, diagnosis, and their interaction. Knots were used at 0 and 2mm distance.
MVF decreased towards the center of lesions (MOGad: -0.03/mm; MS: -0.05/mm; p values (ps)<0.002; difference n.s.) as did AVF (MOGad: -0.03/mm; MS: -0.01/mm; ps<0.0002; difference p=0.02); this graded damage extended to 2mm outside lesions. Beyond this, AVF continued to increase (MOGad: 0.001/mm; MS: 0.0003/mm; ps<10-6; difference p<10-6). Inside lesions, g-ratio increased towards the center in MS (0.03/mm, p<10-6) and decreased in MOGad (p=0.15; MOGad-MS difference p<10-4). G-ratio rose with distance outside lesions (MOGad: 0.001/mm; MS: 0.0004/mm; ps<10-4; difference p<10-5). AVF and g-ratio were similar between groups (within 2%) at 20mm from lesions; MVF was higher in MS (14%, p=0.08).
MS and MOGad showed myelin and axonal loss of decreasing severity with distance from lesion center, and this damage extended outside visible lesions. However, MOGad exhibited more severe axonal loss within and near lesions. The corresponding decreasing g-ratio relative to MS may indicate preferential loss of small axons in MS, or relatively better remyelination in MOGad.