Brain Salt Level May Indicate MS Stage

Sodium levels on the brain in multiple sclerosis patients indicate level of disability

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Predicting the course of multiple sclerosis (MS) is difficult. New patients are often confused about what to expect from their condition. The good news is you may be able to predict the stage of the disease based on levels of sodium found on the brain.

A recent study quantified and located a buildup of brain sodium in MS patients during different stages of the disease.

The study found distinct differences in regions and levels of sodium buildup depending on how long the patient had MS.

"Speak to your neurologist about treatment for your MS stage."

Patrick J. Cozzone, PhD, director emeritus of the Center for Magnetic Resonance in Biology and Medicine, a joint unit of National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, Wafaa Zaaraoui, PhD, research officer at CNRS, and a European team of researchers used sodium 23 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study 26 relapsing-remitting MS patients and 15 control participants with similar age and sex.

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common type of MS. In this type of MS, a person experiences flare-ups of worsening neurologic functioning followed by periods of relative quiet in which part or complete recovery occurs.

In MS, damage to the protective sheath (called myelin) that covers nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord can result in disruption of nerve signals and lead to symptoms such as bad coordination of speech and movement, numbness and muscle weakness.

Of the 26 MS patients, 14 had early-stage RRMS and 12 had advanced-stage MS, which was categorized as having the disease for longer than five years.

The researchers in this study used custom designed hardware and software to produce the MRI images and information on the sodium content of cells in the body.

The areas of high sodium accumulation in early-stage RRMS patients were the brainstem, cerebellum and temporal pole. The advanced-stage patients had high sodium accumulation throughout the brain, including the areas that appeared to be normal brain tissue, and experienced more disability.

In addition, sodium located in areas associated with the motor system signified symptoms similar to advanced-stage disability.

Researchers hope that, by understanding how sodium accumulates in the brain in MS, future research will help develop better treatment tools and medications. It is also hoped that better understanding of MS will lead to a cure, as current treatment can only slow the progression of the disease.

The study was published this July in the online journal Radiology.

One researcher received payment from Siemens Healthcare for lectures unrelated to this specific article. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 17, 2012
Last Updated:
January 16, 2013