Individual Mapping of Innate Immune Cell Activation Is a Candidate Marker of Patient-Specific Trajectories of Worsening Disability in Multiple Sclerosis

J Nucl Med. 2020 Jul;61(7):1043-1049. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.119.231340. Epub 2020 Jan 31.


Our objective was to develop a novel approach to generate individual maps of white matter (WM) innate immune cell activation using 18F-DPA-714 translocator protein PET and to explore the relationship between these maps and individual trajectories of worsening disability in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Methods: Patients with MS (n = 37), whose trajectories of worsening disability over the 2 y preceding study entry were calculated, and healthy controls (n = 19) underwent MRI and 18F-DPA-714 PET. A threshold for significant activation of 18F-DPA-714 binding was calculated with a voxelwise randomized permutation-based comparison between patients and controls and used to classify each WM voxel in all subjects as characterized by a significant activation of innate immune cells (DPA+) or not. Individual maps of innate immune cell activation in the WM were used to calculate the extent of activation in WM regions of interests and to classify each WM lesion as DPA-active, DPA-inactive, or unclassified. Results: Compared with the WM of healthy controls, patients with MS had a significantly higher percentage of DPA+ voxels in the normal-appearing WM (NAWM) (NAWM in patients, 24.6% ± 1.4%; WM in controls, 14.6% ± 2.0%; P < 0.001). In patients with MS, the percentage of DPA+ voxels increased significantly from the NAWM to the perilesional areas, T2 hyperintense lesions, and T1 hypointense lesions (38.1% ± 2.6%, 45.0% ± 2.6%, 51.8% ± 2.6%, respectively; P < 0.001). Among the 1,379 T2 lesions identified, 512 were defined as DPA-active and 258 as DPA-inactive. A higher number of lesions classified as DPA-active (odds ratio, 1.13; P = 0.009), a higher percentage of DPA+ voxels in the NAWM (odds ratio, 1.16; P = 0.009), and a higher percentage of DPA+ voxels in T1 spin-echo lesions (odds ratio, 1.06; P = 0.036) were significantly associated with a retrospectively more severe clinical trajectory in patients with MS. Conclusion: A more severe trajectory of disability worsening in MS is associated with innate immune cell activation inside and around WM lesions. 18F-DPA-714 PET may provide a promising biomarker to identify patients at risk of a severe clinical trajectory.

Keywords: PET; TSPO; multiple sclerosis; worsening disability.