MR spectroscopic evidence for glial increase but not for neuro-axonal damage in MS normal-appearing white matter

Magn Reson Med. 2005 Feb;53(2):256-66. doi: 10.1002/mrm.20366.


Quantitative single-voxel, short echo-time (TE) MR spectroscopy (MRS) was used to determine metabolite concentrations in the cerebral normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) of 76 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), and the WM of 25 controls. In NAWM of all MS disease types (primary progressive, relapsing-remitting, and secondary progressive), the concentration ratio of total N-acetyl-aspartate (tNAA)/total creatine (tCr) was decreased compared to controls. Remarkably, this was entirely due to an increase of tCr in MS patients, whereas there was no difference in tNAA. Separate quantification of the two tNAA components yielded no significant difference in NAA (N-acetyl-aspartate), while the concentration of NAAG (N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate) was slightly-but significantly-elevated in MS patients. Myo-inositol (Ins) was strongly increased in MS patients, and choline-containing compounds (Cho) were mildly increased. There were no metabolite differences between disease types, and no correlations with disability scores. The results are supported by measures of spectral quality, which were identical for patients and controls. In conclusion, MS NAWM containing very little perilesional tissue is characterized by increased glial cell numbers (increase of Ins and tCr) without evidence of axonal dysfunction (normal NAA). Further studies should elucidate the mechanism underlying increased NAAG in MS NAWM.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Biomarkers
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Aspartic Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate