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Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation

Dr Daniel Harrison

Dr Daniel Harrison is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


He received his medical degree from The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, and completed a neurology residency at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. He completed his training with a fellowship in neuroimmunology and neuroinfectious disease at Johns Hopkins.


Dr Harrison’s research programme seeks to translate novel MRI and analysis techniques into tools that have clinical application in MS. He is focused on the validation of tools that will provide more pathologically specific assessments in future clinical trials.


Automated quantification of subpial demyelination and axonal injury in multiple sclerosis on 7-tesla MRI


Although progress has been made in recent years in developing more pathologically specific imaging techniques, adequate imaging biomarkers for subpial cortical demyelination and white matter neurodegeneration have remained elusive. Finding biomarkers for diffuse subpial cortical demyelination and axonal damage is important as both are associated with a poorer prognosis and progressive disability accumulation, but are not strongly associated with focal white matter lesions. Subpial cortical demyelination is difficult to visualize because of its inherently subtle signal characteristics, lack of distinct borders, and partial volume averaging from adjacent cerebrospinal fluid. Diffuse axonal injury is also difficult to quantify because techniques designed to visualize axonal integrity are too heavily influenced by inflammatory changes, masking true axonal health.


To address this area of need in MS research, we will utilize the increased resolution and signal-to-noise ratio of 7-tesla MRI to validate innovative MRI analysis techniques. Participants with MS will undergo MRI and standardized physical and cognitive disability assessments at yearly intervals. Quantitative susceptibility mapping and T1 mapping will be applied to the cortex to quantify demyelination and neuronal loss. This quantitative information will be used to inform automated lesion segmentation algorithms. In addition, diffusion tensor spectroscopy, a novel technique that merges properties of diffusion tensor imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, will quantify directional movement of the intra-axonal metabolite, N-acetyl aspartate, as a surrogate for axonal integrity.


We intend that this study will result in quantitative tools for assessment of subpial cortical demyelination and white matter neurodegeneration in future clinical trials.


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Publications from GMSI-supported research