Progressive myelopathy causes severe handicap in men with adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN), an X-linked disorder due to ABCD1 pathogenic variants. At present, treatments are symptomatic but disease-modifying therapies are under evaluation. Given the small effect size of clinical scales in AMN, biomarkers with higher effect size are needed. Here we used high-resolution magnetic resonance techniques to identify non-invasive in vivo biomarkers of the brain and spine with high effect sizes.
We performed a multiparametric imaging and spectroscopy study in 23 male patients with AMN (age: 44 ± 11) and 23 male controls (age: 43 ± 11) of similar age and body-mass index. We combined (i) macrostructural analyses of the spine, using cross-sectional area (CSA) and magnetization transfer ratio (MTR), (ii) microstructural analyses of the spine and the brain, using diffusion tensor and the newly developed fixel-based analysis, and (iii) advanced metabolic analyses of the spine using metabolite cycling coupled to a semi-LASER sequences.
Macrostructural alterations (decrease in CSA and MTR) were observed in patients at all spinal cord levels studied (C1-T2 for CSA and C1-C5 for MTR) (p < 0.001). Microstructural alterations were observed in the spine and brain on diffusion tensor and fixel-based metrics though the latter showed higher effect sizes. Metabolic alterations were observed in patients as a decreased total N-acetylaspartate/myo-inositol ratio (p < 0.001). Overall, MTR showed the highest effect size.
This cross-sectional study supports the use of multiparametric techniques that elucidate the structural, microstructural and metabolic alterations in AMN. These outcome measures should be tested longitudinally and in clinical trials.