The retina, the part of the eye that can detect light to create pictures of the outside world, provides a window into the brain.

Investigators have previously found that special retinal examinations known as optical coherence tomography or OCT may detect the death of brain cells in people with MS.

In this study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and other centres in USA investigated the effects that taking a single disease modifying drug over a period of one year had on retinal measures. The drugs they looked at were: glatiramer acetate (48 people), natalizumab (46 people), and interferon-β-1a subcutaneously (35 people) and intramuscularly (28 people).

At the beginning of the study there were no significant differences between groups in terms of age, sex, optic neuritis history, or follow-up duration. However, over the one year follow-up study period, people who were treated with interferon or glatiramer acetate showed a higher rate of retinal thinning than those who were taking natalizumab.

The authors concluded that retinal measures, as assessed by OCT, can detect the effect of treatments on the death of neuronal cells and may be used in relapsing-remitting MS drug trials to test the effect of drugs.

Read the full article (external website opens in a new window)