Problems with functions like seeing and walking, related to optic nerve and spinal cord lesions, are some of the most common symptoms of MS.
Several studies have raised the possibility of a specific relationship between the optic nerves and spinal cord dysfunction in MS.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins MS Clinic in Baltimore studied relationships between spinal cord dysfunction, retinal layers and clinical dysfunction in MS.
Their study involved 62 people with relapsing-remitting MS, 24 with secondary progressive MS and 12 with primary progressive MS. All patients underwent optical coherence tomography (OCT), and brain and cervical cord magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). OCT is a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to take pictures of the retina.
The team found correlations between spinal cord abnormalities on MRI and specific retinal layers in patients with MS, suggesting there are clinically relevant pathologic processes occurring in the spinal cord and retina that are distinct from those in the brain.
Moreover, the researchers observed stronger spinal cord and retinal correlations in progressive patients, supporting the view that tissue injury mechanisms of MS differ by type of MS.
Further studies following larger sample sizes of patients with MS and healthy controls over time are needed to confirm these findings, and to assess how the combination of spinal cord, retinal, and brain measures relate to clinical disability progression.
With confirmation from these studies, this approach could not only be of significant clinical utility, but may also help us understand more about how MS evolves.