Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Assessing remyelination in the presence of myelin debris using MRI

Principal Investigator: Dr. Yunyan Zhang

Affiliation: University of Calgary

Term: April 1, 2016 – March 31, 2019

Funding: $289,954

Keywords: focal lesions, demyelination, remyelination, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


  • Tissue repair occurs in multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions and can be promoted with appropriate treatments. In particular, repairing myelin, which is the protective covering of nerve fibers damaged in MS, is shown to be potentially possible.
  • Non-invasive measurement of tissue repair, or remyelination, remains a challenge.
  • The research team will:
    • Use MRI to evaluate what remyelination looks like in a specifically designed mouse model.
    • Determine how lesions with different types of myelin integrity look like in MRI using post-mortem MS brain samples.

Project Description:

Repair of damaged myelin in MS (remyelination) is critical to restoring function and thus is an important area of MS research. A major challenge, however, is that the complex environment of MS lesions makes remyelination difficult to visualize using imaging techniques like MRI. The Zhang lab has established a mathematical formula which allows them to distinguish between loss of myelin and myelin repair. They are currently studying lesions in mice with an MS-like disease to identify evidence of remyelination and demyelination, compare the characteristics of remyelination with human post-mortem tissue, and apply their findings to the clinic. The research team has thus far collected MRI images from mice with MS-like disease to detect de- and re-myelination by looking at measures of lesion size, structure, and complexity. Furthermore, they have imaged post-mortem tissue and determined that their initial findings align with those from mice. Outcomes from this project have the potential to form new imaging measures that may help to identify repair in individuals with MS and be important for disease evaluation.

Potential Impact: This study can provide insight into the tissue damage during MS, assist with management plans, and help screen new treatments aimed at neuroprotection and repair.

Project Status: In Progress