Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is widely employed for the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, sometimes, the lesions found by MRI do not correlate with the neurological impairments observed in MS patients. We recently showed autoreactive T cells accumulate in the fifth lumbar cord (L5) to pass the blood-brain barrier and cause inflammation in the central nervous system of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) mice, an MS model. We here investigated this early event using ultrahigh-field MRI. T2-weighted image signals, which conform to the water content, increased in L4 and L5 during the development of EAE. At the same time, the sizes of L4 and L5 changed. Moreover, angiographic images of MRI showed branch positions of the blood vessels in the lower lumbar cords were significantly altered. Interestingly, EAE mice showed occluded and thickened vessels, particularly during the peak phase, followed by reperfusion in the remission phase. Additionally, demyelination regions of some MS patients had increased lactic acid content, suggesting the presence of ischemic events. These results suggest that inflammation-mediated alterations in the lower lumbar cord change the homeostasis of the spinal cord and demonstrate that ultrahigh-field MRI enables the detection of previously invisible pathological alterations in EAE.
Keywords: EAE; MRI; lumbar cords; spinal cords.