Measuring Brain Volume can Help People with Multiple Sclerosis
News Dec 12, 2014
In a new and unique project the brain volume of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Belgium will be measured. MS is a chronic neurological disorder that usually starts in young people. It affects around 2.5 million people worldwide and 12.000 in Belgium. Two very important characteristics of the brain to keep track of in people with MS are brain volume and brain lesions. Both of these characteristics are directly related to physical and cognitive disabilities that accompany the disease.
Recently, a Belgian company, icometrix, has developed software for measuring the brain and brain lesion volume and their changes over time. “Complementary to the evaluation by the radiologist, we perform calculations on MRI scans of the brain, which most people with MS already undergo regularly”, says Dr. Ir. Wim Van Hecke, co-founder and Chief Business Officer of icometrix. “We are the first to calculate brain volume with such accuracy that it can be used in clinical practice. It is great that we can introduce this in 2014, which was launched as the ‘Year of the Brain’, by the European Brain Council.”
The use of the brain volume measures will be evaluated in a large, multi-center project organized by the Belgian Study Group for Multiple Sclerosis. The Belgian Study Group for Multiple Sclerosis was founded over 50 years ago to promote the study and treatment of MS in Belgium. It unites the most prominent MS neurologists and researchers in the country. For this unique study, 12 Belgian hospitals and MS centers and one hospital in Luxemburg will participate and evaluate brain scans of more than 200 MS patients.
“Neurologists are very interested in reliable measures that can tell us something about the state of the brain of an MS patient”, says Prof. Guy Nagels, head of Neurology of the National MS Center in Melsbroek. “We believe this information can help us take better decisions for our patients”, Prof. Nagels continues. “The potential of these measures also goes beyond MS. In the future it might benefit patients with Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, or other neurological conditions.”
“We are very excited to start (this project)”, says Wim Van Hecke. “However, for us, it doesn’t end here, as there is worldwide interest in our measures. Pilot studies are coming up and will start in the beginning of 2015 in The Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany and the US. In addition, we are very close to obtaining our CE and FDA approval, which means that our software is approved for clinical practice. And this is an important milestone for both icometrix and MS patients worldwide”, Wim Van Hecke concludes.
Computer bits are binary, with a value of 0 or 1. By contrast, neurons in the brain can have all kinds of different internal states, depending on the input that they received. This allows the brain to process information in a more energy-efficient manner than a computer. A new study hopes to bring the two closer together.