Axon Diameter May Help Detect, Track Multiple Sclerosis

neuron axon
neuron axon
Axon diameter dynamics may serve as a novel biomarker for MS disease course.

As disease-modifying treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) proliferate, the research community is turning its focus to identifying biological features of the disease that can be used as biomarkers of early disease activity and progression.

Findings presented by Assaf Horowitz, MSc, of Tel Aviv University, and colleagues at the 32nd European Committee for Research and Treatments in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) Congress in London, UK seem to indicate that axon diameter dynamics may represent such  a novel biomarker.

The researchers recruited 21 patients with MS and 25 healthy controls to undergo diffusion MRI scans. They used the AxCaliber protocol, which allows for the measurement of axon diameter distribution, focused on sagittal sections of the corpus callosum (CC).

The series of diffusion images revealed significant differences in axonal morphology at all callosal sections between the 2 groups (r < .035). Compared with healthy controls, patients with MS had a 10% decrease in axon diameter in the genu, 20% decrease in the body, and 15% decrease in the splenium.

The results suggest that differences in axon diameter distribution can be detected using this method and may be suggestive of MS pathophysiology. Further, “the variability within the MS group may implicate different phases during [the] MS cycle and may serve as a new practical in vivo tool for MS pathology evolution,” the authors concluded.

The authors report no disclosures.

For more coverage of ECTRIMS 2016, go here. 


Horowitz A, Tavor I, Hoffmann C, Miron S, Achiron A, Assaf Y. A novel bio-marker for early detection and characterization of multiple sclerosis. Presented at: ECTRIMS 2016. September 14-17, 2016; London, UK. Poster 264.