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Novel MRI contrast agent

Using a multiple sclerosis (MS) animal model and a new magnetic resonance imaging contrast agent, neuroradiologists and neurologists at the University Hospitals of Heidelberg and Würzburg succeeded in visualising tissue damage that was previously indiscernible.

Professor Dr. Martin Bendszus, Medical Director, Department of Neuroradiology (Photo: private)
Multiple sclerosis can be treated effectively when diagnosed at an early stage. However, a definitive diagnosis could not be made previously when no, or only a few, centres of inflammation were visible in MRI. “The new contrast agent visualises up to five to ten times more inflammatory lesions compared to traditional MR images and contrast agents,” reported Professor Dr. Martin Bendszus, Medical Director of the Department of Neuroradiology at the University Hospital Heidelberg.

MS is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system of unknown origin. Disease onset usually occurs in young adults and is more common in women. In Germany, approximately 120,000 people suffer from MS, which is characterised by numerous centres of inflammation, leading to the demyelation of neurons. MS results in the complete loss of myelin, which leads to a broad range of neurological exacerbations, which are often transient. In later stages, MS leads to the loss of neurons due to irreversible damage. MRI plays a decisive role in the early diagnosis of MS.

The scientists from Heidelberg and Würzburg used the new contrast agent to examine the brain and spinal marrow of experimental animals at different points of the disease’s progression and discovered a far greater number of lesions compared to MRI involving the traditional contrast agents. Tissue examinations of the lesions showed that the discovered areas were indeed centres of inflammation. The new contrast agent was particularly effective in visualising centres of inflammation in the spinal marrow and the optic nerve, which are areas that are generally difficult to examine with MRI.

New contrast agent accumulates more effectively in MS lesions

The results of the study might considerably contribute to improving the outcome of MS treatment. “MS is the most frequent cause of disability and impairment in young adults,” explains Professor Bendszus. “New therapies have a positive effect on the progression of the disease, but they are often not put in place in time, as MS is often only diagnosed at a later stage.”

It is assumed that the new contrast agent, Gadofluorine M, visualises MS lesions more effectively because it binds particularly well to certain components of the cell environment (extracellular matrix) in the centres of inflammation. Thus, it accumulates in high quantities in the lesions.

The next objective of the interdisciplinary work group is to further develop the new MRI contrast agent for use in clinical routine, for which it is currently not approved. Clinical application, therefore, necessitates further preclinical investigations.

Source: Press release, University Hospital Heidelberg, 28 July 2008


Further information:
Professor Dr. Martin Bendszus
Medical Director, Department of Neuroradiology
University Hospital Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 (0)6221/567566
E-mail: martin_bendszus@med.uni-heidelberg.de
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/novel-mri-contrast-agent