Metabolomic approach to human brain spectroscopy identifies associations between clinical features and the frontal lobe metabolome in multiple sclerosis

Neuroimage. 2013 Nov 15;82:586-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.125. Epub 2013 Jun 7.


Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H-MRS) is capable of noninvasively detecting metabolic changes that occur in the brain tissue in vivo. Its clinical utility has been limited so far, however, by analytic methods that focus on independently evaluated metabolites and require prior knowledge about which metabolites to examine. Here, we applied advanced computational methodologies from the field of metabolomics, specifically partial least squares discriminant analysis and orthogonal partial least squares, to in vivo (1)H-MRS from frontal lobe white matter of 27 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and 14 healthy controls. We chose RRMS, a chronic demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system, because its complex pathology and variable disease course make the need for reliable biomarkers of disease progression more pressing. We show that in vivo MRS data, when analyzed by multivariate statistical methods, can provide reliable, distinct profiles of MRS-detectable metabolites in different patient populations. Specifically, we find that brain tissue in RRMS patients deviates significantly in its metabolic profile from that of healthy controls, even though it appears normal by standard MRI techniques. We also identify, using statistical means, the metabolic signatures of certain clinical features common in RRMS, such as disability score, cognitive impairments, and response to stress. This approach to human in vivo MRS data should promote understanding of the specific metabolic changes accompanying disease pathogenesis, and could provide biomarkers of disease progression that would be useful in clinical trials.

Keywords: (1)H-MRS; CTWM; MRS; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS); Metabolomics; Multivariate statistics; NAWM; NELES; RRMS; Relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis; control white matter, i.e., MRS of white matter from healthy controls; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; normal-appearing white matter, i.e., MRS from the frontal lobe in RRMS patients; periventricular non-enhancing lesions in RRMS patients; proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy; relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Metabolome*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / metabolism*
  • Young Adult