Background: Activated microglia, which can be detected in vivo by 11C-PBR28 positron emission tomography (PET), represent a main component of MS pathology in the brain. Their role in the cerebellum is still unexplored, although cerebellar involvement in MS is frequent and accounts for disability progression.
Objectives: We aimed at characterizing cerebellar neuroinflammation in MS patients compared to healthy subjects by combining 11C-PBR28 MRI-Positron Emission Tomography (MR-PET) with 7 Tesla (T) MRI and assessing its relationship with brain neuroinflammation and clinical outcome measures.
Methods: Twenty-eight MS patients and 16 healthy controls underwent 11C-PBR28 MR-PET to measure microglia activation in normal appearing cerebellum and lesions segmented from 7 T scans. Patients were evaluated using the Expanded Disability Status Scale and Symbol Digit Modalities Test. 11C-PBR28 binding was assessed in regions of interest using 60-90 minutes standardized uptake values normalized by a pseudo-reference region in the brain normal appearing white matter. Multilinear regression was used to compare tracer uptake in MS and healthy controls and assess correlations with clinical scores.
Results: In all cerebellar regions examined, MS patients showed abnormally increased tracer uptake, which correlated with cognitive and neurological disability.
Conclusion: Neuroinflammation is widespread in the cerebellum of patients with MS and related to neurological disability and cognitive impairment.
Keywords: Cerebellum; MR-PET; microglia; neuroinflammation.
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