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Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) currently requires lesion identification by gadolinium (Gd)-enhanced or T(2)-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, these methods only identify late-stage pathology associated with blood-brain barrier breakdown. There is a growing belief that more widespread, but currently undetectable, pathology is present in the MS brain. We have previously demonstrated that an anti-VCAM-1 antibody conjugated to microparticles of iron oxide (VCAM-MPIO) enables in vivo detection of VCAM-1 by MRI. Here, in an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) mouse model of MS, we have shown that presymptomatic lesions can be quantified using VCAM-MPIO when they are undetectable by Gd-enhancing MRI. Moreover, in symptomatic animals VCAM-MPIO binding was present in all regions showing Gd-DTPA enhancement and also in areas of no Gd-DTPA enhancement, which were confirmed histologically to be regions of leukocyte infiltration. VCAM-MPIO binding correlated significantly with increasing disability. Negligible MPIO-induced contrast was found in either EAE animals injected with an equivalent nontargeted contrast agent (IgG-MPIO) or in control animals injected with the VCAM-MPIO. These findings describe a highly sensitive molecular imaging tool that may enable detection of currently invisible pathology in MS, thus accelerating diagnosis, guiding treatment, and enabling quantitative disease assessment.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





4415 - 4422


Animals, Brain, Contrast Media, Disease Models, Animal, Disease Progression, Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental, Endothelium, Female, Ferric Compounds, Gadolinium DTPA, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Mice, Multiple Sclerosis, Translational Medical Research, Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1