New imaging tests shed light on brain matter changes in relatives of MS patients

January 21, 2002

ST. PAUL, MN -- Relatives of patients with multiple sclerosis have a higher risk of developing MS than the general population, according to a study published in the current issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Study author Krzysztof Selmaj, MD, a professor at the Medical University of Lodz, in Lodz, Poland, said "The study confirmed previous findings suggesting that asymptomatic relatives of MS patients have an increased risk of developing brain autoimmune damage than individuals of the general population."

The study to evaluate risk involved 30 relatives of patients at the Department of Neurology Medical Academy in Lodz, Poland, and the Department of Neuroscience, Scientific Institute and University Ospedale San Raffaele, in Milan, Italy. Half of those in the study had relatives with familial MS, meaning at lease two family members were diagnosed with MS, and the other half were relatives of patients with sporadic MS, meaning in a given family there was a single individual affected by clinically definate MS.

All the relatives in the study had no previous history of neurologic deficits and had a normal neurologic examination.

The study showed that subtle normal appearing brain tissue changes were observed in asymptomatic first-degree relatives of patients with familial and sporatic MS.

These changes were not detected using conventional MRI, but an alternative test using magnetization transfer imaging.

Although conventional MRI can detect focal MS lesions, it is unable to detect these more subtle changes, according to Selmaj. "Using magnetization transfer imaging, physicians can do a more complete assessment of normal appearing brain tissue damage," said Selmaj.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 17,500 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its web site at

For more information contact: Kathy Stone, 651-695-2763; For a copy of the study, contact Cheryl Alementi, 651-695-2737;

American Academy of Neurology

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