A New Advanced MRI Biomarker for Remyelinated Lesions in Multiple Sclerosis

Ann Neurol. 2022 Sep;92(3):486-502. doi: 10.1002/ana.26441. Epub 2022 Jul 13.


Objectives: Neuropathological studies have shown that multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions are heterogeneous in terms of myelin/axon damage and repair as well as iron content. However, it remains a challenge to identify specific chronic lesion types, especially remyelinated lesions, in vivo in patients with MS.

Methods: We performed 3 studies: (1) a cross-sectional study in a prospective cohort of 115 patients with MS and 76 healthy controls, who underwent 3 T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM), myelin water fraction (MWF), and neurite density index (NDI) maps. White matter (WM) lesions in QSM were classified into 5 QSM lesion types (iso-intense, hypo-intense, hyperintense, lesions with hypo-intense rims, and lesions with paramagnetic rim legions [PRLs]); (2) a longitudinal study of 40 patients with MS to study the evolution of lesions over 2 years; (3) a postmortem histopathology-QSM validation study in 3 brains of patients with MS to assess the accuracy of QSM classification to identify neuropathological lesion types in 63 WM lesions.

Results: At baseline, hypo- and isointense lesions showed higher mean MWF and NDI values compared to other QSM lesion types (p < 0.0001). Further, at 2-year follow-up, hypo-/iso-intense lesions showed an increase in MWF. Postmortem analyses revealed that QSM highly accurately identifies (1) fully remyelinated areas as hypo-/iso-intense (sensitivity = 88.89% and specificity = 100%), (2) chronic inactive lesions as hyperintense (sensitivity = 71.43% and specificity = 92.00%), and (3) chronic active/smoldering lesions as PRLs (sensitivity = 92.86% and specificity = 86.36%).

Interpretation: These results provide the first evidence that it is possible to distinguish chronic MS lesions in a clinical setting, hereby supporting with new biomarkers to develop and assess remyelinating treatments. ANN NEUROL 2022;92:486-502.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Water


  • Biomarkers
  • Water