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New Imaging Tests Shed Light on Brain Matter Changes in Relatives of MS Patients

St. Paul, Minn. – Relatives of patients with multiple sclerosis have a higher risk of developing MS than the general population, according to a study published in the January 22 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. "The study confirmed previous findings suggesting that asymptomatic relatives of MS patients have an increased risk of developing brain autoimmune damage than individuals of the general population," said study author Krzysztof Selmaj, MD, a professor at the Medical University of Lodz, in Lodz, Poland. The study to evaluate risk involved 30 relatives of patients at the Department of Neurology Medical Academy in Lodz, Poland, and the Department of Neuroscience, Scientific Institute and University Ospedale San Raffaele, in Milan, Italy. Half of those in the study had relatives with familial MS, meaning at lease two family members were diagnosed with MS, and the other half were relatives of patients with sporadic MS, meaning in a given family there was a single individual affected by clinically definate MS. All the relatives in the study had no previous history of neurological deficits and had a normal neurological examination. The study showed that subtle normal appearing brain tissue changes were observed in asymptomatic first-degree relatives of patients with familial and sporatic MS. These changes were not detected using conventional MRI, but an alternative test using magnetization transfer imaging. Although conventional MRI can detect focal MS lesions, it is unable to detect these more subtle changes, according to Selmaj. "Using magnetization transfer imaging, physicians can do a more complete assessment of normal appearing brain tissue damage," said Selmaj.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

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