White matter abnormalities in the CNS have been reported recently in various neurological and psychiatric disorders. Quantitation of non-Gaussianity for water diffusion by q-space diffusional MRI (QSI) renders biological diffusion barriers such as myelin sheaths; however, the time-consuming nature of this method hinders its clinical application. In the current study, we aimed to refine QSI protocols to enable their clinical application and to visualize myelin signals in a clinical setting. For this purpose, animal studies were first performed to optimize the acquisition protocol of a non-Gaussian QSI metric. The heat map of standardized kurtosis values derived from optimal QSI (myelin map) was then created. Histological validation of the myelin map was performed in myelin-deficient mice and in a nonhuman primate by monitoring its variation during demyelination and remyelination after chemical spinal cord injury. The results demonstrated that it was sensitive enough to depict dysmyelination, demyelination, and remyelination in animal models. Finally, its utility in clinical practice was assessed by a pilot clinical study in a selected group of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The human myelin map could be obtained within 10 min with a 3 T MR scanner. Use of the myelin map was practical for visualizing white matter and it sensitively detected reappearance of myelin signals after demyelination, possibly reflecting remyelination inMSpatients. Our results together suggest that the myelin map, a kurtosis-related heat map obtainable with time-saving QSI, may be a novel and clinically useful means of visualizing myelin in the human CNS.
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