Objective: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a common demyelinating central nervous system disease. MRI methods that can quantify myelin loss are needed for trials of putative remyelinating agents. Quantitative magnetization transfer MRI introduced the macromolecule proton fraction (MPF), which correlates with myelin concentration. We developed an alternative approach, Simultaneous-Multi-Angular-Relaxometry-of-Tissue (SMART) MRI, to generate MPF. Our objective was to test SMART-derived MPF metric as a potential imaging biomarker of demyelination. Methods: Twenty healthy control (HC), 11 relapsing–remitting MS (RRMS), 22 progressive MS (PMS), and one subject with a biopsied tumefactive demyelinating lesion were scanned at 3T using SMART MRI. SMART-derived MPF metric was determined in normal-appearing cortical gray matter (NAGM), normal-appearing subcortical white matter (NAWM), and demyelinating lesions. MPF metric was evaluated for correlations with physical and cognitive test scores. Comparisons were made between HC and MS and between MS subtypes. Furthermore, correlations were determined between MPF and neuropathology in the biopsied person. Results: SMART-derived MPF in NAGM and NAWM were lower in MS than HC (p < 0.001). MPF in NAGM, NAWM and lesions differentiated RRMS from PMS (p < 0.01, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, respectively), whereas lesion volumes did not. MPF in NAGM, NAWM and lesions correlated with the Expanded Disability Status Scale (p < 0.01, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, respectively) and nine-hole peg test (p < 0.001, p < 0.001, p < 0.01, respectively). MPF was lower in the histopathologically confirmed inflammatory demyelinating lesion than the contralateral NAWM and increased in the biopsied lesion over time, mirroring improved clinical performance. Interpretation: SMART-derived MPF metric holds potential as a quantitative imaging biomarker of demyelination and remyelination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1514-1527
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Clinical and Translational Neurology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


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