The Effect of Glatiramer Acetate on Spinal Cord Volume in Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis

J Neuroimaging. 2017 Jan;27(1):33-36. doi: 10.1111/jon.12378. Epub 2016 Jul 28.


Background: Spinal cord atrophy occurs early in the multiple sclerosis (MS) disease course, is closely related to physical disability, and is a putative neuroprotective therapeutic outcome measure.

Objective: This pilot study explored glatiramer acetate (GA)'s effect on spinal cord volume in patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).

Methods: Fifteen patients receiving daily subcutaneous GA were prospectively followed. At baseline, age was 43.6 ± 7.4 years, Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score was 1.4 ± 1.5, timed 25-foot walk (T25FW) was 4.7 ± 1.1 seconds, and time on GA was 2.1 ± 3.1 years. Healthy controls (n = 10) with similar age and sex to the patients were also enrolled. The spinal cord was imaged at baseline and one year later with 3T magnetic resonance imaging. An active surface method measured the C1-C7 spinal cord volume from which we calculated the normalized area.

Results: The spinal cord area showed no significant change in the MS group over one year (P = .19). Furthermore, the change in the spinal cord area did not differ significantly between the MS and control groups over one year (P = .26). In the MS group, the EDSS score (P = .44) and T25FW (P = .92) did not change significantly on-study.

Conclusion: In this pilot study of RRMS, GA therapy was not associated with any ongoing spinal cord atrophy or any difference in the one-year rate of spinal cord area change versus healthy controls. These results paralleled the lack of clinical worsening and may reflect a treatment effect of GA. Further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary findings.

Keywords: MRI; glatiramer acetate; multiple sclerosis; spinal cord atrophy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy
  • Female
  • Glatiramer Acetate / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Organ Size
  • Pilot Projects
  • Spinal Cord / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Glatiramer Acetate