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December 2007 Off the Wire . . .



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Vision: New Scanner May Improve Exams for Multiple Sclerosis
Published: October 16, 2007

A machine that can quickly assess the state of nerve fibers in the retina may offer a better way to measure the progression of multiple sclerosis than the M.R.I. examinations now used, researchers said yesterday.

Writing in Neurology, the researchers said the machine used a method known as optical coherence tomography to measure the thickness of the nerve fibers, which shrink as multiple sclerosis progresses.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Peter Calabresi of Johns Hopkins, said the problem with M.R.I. scans for multiple sclerosis patients was that they measured brain shrinkage, a symptom that tends to occur in the later stages of the disease.

A test that shows changes in the retinal nerve fibers would allow doctors to begin treatment earlier, although the changes can signal other problems besides multiple sclerosis. It may also allow researchers developing new drugs against the disease to see how well they work.

The eye scans take just five minutes and are far simpler than M.R.I.ís. They are also much less expensive.
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