Establishing an imaging biomarker for disease progression in multiple sclerosis

Start Term
End Term
April 1, 2020
Funding Amount
University of British Columbia
Geographic Region(s) / Province(s)
British Columbia
Hot Topic(s)
Progressive MS
Research Priorities
Impact Goal(s)
Advance Treatment and Care


  • Therapy efficacy is evaluated using clinical measures in patients with MS, however these measures change slowly and are difficult to measure objectively, therefore clinical trials examining progression in multiple sclerosis (MS) require a very large number of people and long period of time.
  • There is an unmet need to develop clinical measures that will reduce the time and hence costs that is required for clinical trials particularly those that are focused on progressive MS.
  • The research team will:
    • Explore the loss of myelin, the protective covering on the nerve fibers, as a potential clinical measure using advanced imaging tools in individuals with MS

Project Description:

Over the past three decades, clinical trials of promising therapies for progressive MS have relied on clinical measures of disease progression to test whether they are effective. Unfortunately, because these clinical measures change slowly and are difficult to measure objectively, clinical trials for progression require a very large number of people and long period of time. Biomarkers are biological clues from the body that can tell us about the state of a disease or the effect of a treatment. The most promising brain imaging biomarker in MS is change in brain volume, however this can take over a year to confirm and is only partially linked to progression. As a potential alternative, Dr. Shannon Kolind’s research team wants to explore the loss of myelin as a potential biomarker. The integrity of myelin determines the health of neurons, and myelin loss can reflect the severity of MS disease. Dr. Kolind’s research team plans to use imaging tools that can detect and measure structural changes in myelin, which in turn can provide information about disease progression. In the past year, the research team has recruited a significant portion of their target cohort and analyzed test data to confirm all data is of high quality. Ongoing work will continue to analyze data from their imaging tools to achieve their study goals. Dr. Kolind hopes that her findings will help to: (1) establish an approach that monitors myelin changes; (2) identify individuals at risk for severe progression; and (3) reduce the cost and time required for progressive MS clinical trials.

Potential Impact: This project has the potential to reduce the cost and time required to test therapies in clinical trials for progressive MS and to identify people at risk for progression to that would require more aggressive treatment.

Project Status: In Progress