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Front. Mol. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2018.00460

Geostatistical analysis of white matter lesions in MS identifies gender differences in lesion evolution

 Robert Marschallinger1, 2*, Mark Mühlau3, 4, Viola Pongratz3, 4, Paul Schmidt4, 5,  Jan Kirschke3, 4, Simon Marschallinger6 and  Johann Sellner2, 3
  • 1Z_GIS, Department of Geoinformatics, University of Salzburg, Austria
  • 2Christian Doppler Clinic, University Hospital Salzburg, Austria
  • 3Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, Germany
  • 4Neuroimaging Center (TUM-NIC), Germany
  • 5Abteilung für Neurologie, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, Germany
  • 6FH Gesundheitsberufe OÖ, Austria

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system with presumed autoimmune origin. The development of lesions within the grey and white matter, which are highly variable with respect to number, total volume and spatial evolution and only show a limited correlation with clinical disability, is a hallmark of the disease. Interestingly, population-based studies indicate a distinct outcome depending on gender. Here, we studied gender-related differences in the evolution of white matter lesions in early MS by using geostatistical methods. Within a three years observation period, patients underwent standardized annual brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), accompanied by neurological examination. MS white matter lesions were automatically extracted and the derived binary lesion masks were subject to geostatistical analysis, yielding quantitative spatial-statistics measures on the lesion pattern geometries. Through the MS-lesion pattern discrimination plot, differences of white matter lesion pattern characteristics and evolution in male and female cohorts were disclosed: while at the individual level, both men and women show strongly varying lesion pattern evolution, at the cohort level spatial-statistics parameters are more distinct. The female cohort shows enhanced lesion pattern smoothness while the male cohort shows more complicated patterns with pronounced directional anisotropies. Regarding evolution of MS white matter lesion patterns in the three year observation period, the female cohort shows slightly increasing pattern smoothness while the male cohort is distinguished by a pronounced decrease of pattern smoothness and total lesion volume. Our results justify detailed studies on gender-related differences.

Keywords: multiple sclerosis lesions exploration, white matter, multiple sclerosis lesions exploration white matter, multiple sclerosis lesions exploration white matter WML, Multiple Sclerosis White Matter Lesions Exploration

Received: 02 Jul 2018; Accepted: 28 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Laura Musazzi, University of Milan, Italy

Reviewed by:

Svenja Caspers, Medizinische Fakultät, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Germany
David F. Tate, University of Missouri–St. Louis, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Marschallinger, Mühlau, Pongratz, Schmidt, Kirschke, Marschallinger and Sellner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Robert Marschallinger, University of Salzburg, Z_GIS, Department of Geoinformatics, Salzburg, Austria, robert.marschallinger@sbg.ac.at