Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gender influences MS’ effect on brain

Contributing Editor

A new multiple sclerosis study conducted by UB neurologists has shown that in addition to affecting women two-to-three times more than men, multiple sclerosis (MS) damages different regions of the brain in men and women.

The differences were defined by analyzing brain scans of 795 MS patients and 101 healthy controls using conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, plus more advanced nonconventional MRI techniques, such as diffusion weighted imaging and magnetization transfer imaging.

Results of the study were presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

The research showed that MS in women results in more atrophy of the brain’s white matter, the network of nerves that transport messages to the various brain regions, while the condition in men appears to cause more atrophy in the brain’s gray matter, the regions where messages are received and interpreted.

Ronald Antulov is first author on the study. He conducted the research while a neuroimaging fellow at the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center (BNAC), part of the Jacobs Neurological Institute, which is the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Antulov and colleagues examined consecutively 620 female and 175 male MS patients who were seen at the institute and compared scans with those of the healthy controls. All were assessed using conventional and nonconventional MRI measures.

“We found that atrophy of gray matter and central brain regions was more advanced in men, while atrophy of white matter was more advanced in women,” said Antulov. The phenomenon was not observed in healthy controls.

“We think these changes are influenced by a decrease in sex hormones,” Antulov said. “A recent study showing that male MS patients receiving testosterone treatment showed a lower rate of brain volume decline supports this concept. This finding also suggests that higher levels of estrogen may protect women against more severe MS-related brain damage.”

The BNAC is applying for grants to extend this research.

Contributing to the study, all from the BNAC-JNI, were Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, Jennifer Cox, Sara Hussein, Jackie Durfee, Michael Dwyer, Niels Bergsland, Nadir Abdelrahman, Milena Stosic, David Hojnacki, Frederick E. Munschauer and Robert Zivadinov.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the University of Rijeka, Croatia. Vladimir Miletic of that university also contributed to the research.