Magnetisation transfer (MT) is a recently introduced technique for assessing the water content of tissues in vivo and its relationship to macromolecules or membranes. It has been suggested that MT could provide indirect evidence of the characteristics of multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions (oedema, demyelination, or gliosis). Our aims were to characterise brain MS lesions and to compare the magnetisation transfer ratio (MTR) values of lesions with different patterns of contrast enhancement. In patients with MS we measured the MTR of 65 gadolinium-enhancing and 292 nonenhancing lesions. Using the equation published by Dousset et al. we studied 29 patients with clinically definite MS and 10 healthy controls. Lesions had significantly lower MT than the normal-appearing white matter of the patients or the normal white matter of healthy controls. There was no difference in the MTR of enhancing and nonenhancing lesions. Enhancement was homogeneous in 45 and ring-like in 20 lesions; MTR values were lower in the latter. These findings are presumably related to the differences in pathological features of enhancing (different amounts of proteins and inflammatory cells, oedema and demyelination) and nonenhancing (gliosis, demyelination and axonal loss) lesions.
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