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Publications of the Week

Assessing Structure and Function of Myelin in Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy: Evidence of Demyelination

By July 28, 2017July 31st, 2017No Comments

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 This week we profile a recent publication in Neurology from the laboratory of Drs. John Kramer (above, far right)
and Corree Laule (below) at the International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries (ICORD).
Hanwen Liu (above, second from right) was first author on the paper.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus? Dr. Corree Laule

The labs of Dr. John Kramer and Dr. Corree Laule are interested in assessing changes in the spinal cord related to injury (e.g., after a car accident). This is technically very challenging (more so than examining pathology in the brain) because the spinal cord is very small and moves, and because many people with spinal cord injury have implants that cause distortions in the images. We are using so-called “quantitative” magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques that tell us about microstructure, or the cells within the spinal cord. An important part of this work aims at automating the analysis to reduce examiner bias. With this information, we hope to improve the accuracy of diagnosis and prognosis, as well as better understand the underlying pathology of spinal cord injury.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

For the first time, we have provided in vivo evidence of demyelination in individuals with non-traumatic spinal cord injury. This was done using an MRI technique called myelin water imaging that is specifically sensitive to changes in myelination (validated in more conventional diseases associated with demyelination, like multiple sclerosis). This is important because it would suggest demyelination is a pathophysiological process of non-traumatic spinal cord injury and that targeting myelin for repair may lead to the recovery of function. Additionally, this imaging technique may be useful to track disease progression (i.e., diagnosis and prognosis).

What are the next steps for this research?

Next steps are to further develop the methods of myelin water imaging in the spinal cord injury. This means moving towards complete automation and increasing the amount of information extracted from the spinal cord. For example, we would like to be able to measure damage in individual spinal cord tracts. This would allow us to examine very discrete pathology in pathways that convey sensory and motor information to and from brain. A very talented PhD graduate student in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, Mr. Hanwen Liu, is currently working on this important next step.

This research was funded by:

Drs. Laule and Kramer are principal investigators and have their lab space at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD, Funding support comes from ICORD, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Rick Hansen Institute, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and NSERC.

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