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New tool improves diagnosis of brain diseases

Posted on Nov 05, 12:35PM | IANS

A key discovery could give medical science a new tool for a better insight into and monitoring of brain diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).

The MS is a nerve disorder caused by the destruction of myelin, the insulating layer surrounding neurons (nerve cells) and their fibres in the brain and spinal cord, helping the brain send electrical signals quickly and smoothly to the rest of the body.

Symptoms of MS include changes in sensation such as loss of sensitivity or tingling, pricking or numbness, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, or difficulty in moving, difficulties with coordination and balance and problems in speech or swallowing among others.

The new research has potentially useful applications in the diagnosis and monitoring of MS where there are known links to myelin loss, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Nikolaos Evangelou, clinical associate professor at Nottingham University, specialising in MS, said: "The more we understand about the nerves and the myelin around them, the more successful we are in studying brain diseases, such as multiple sclerosis."

Samuel Wharton from the The University of Nottingham's Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre, said: "While most MRI-based research focuses on tissue measurements at the millimetre length scale, our experimental scans...shows that much more detailed microscopic information relating to the size and direction of nerve fibres can be generated using fairly simple imaging techniques.

"The results will give clinicians more context in which to recognise and identify lesions or abnormalities in the brain and will also help them to tailor different types of scan to a particular patient," Wharton added, according to a Nottingham statement.

"The recent advances in our understanding and treatments of MS are based on basic, solid research such as the one presented by Dr Wharton and Bowtell," added Evangelou.