Multiple sclerosis is a chronic progressive neurological disorder that has few distinctive biomarkers associated with disease progression or response to therapy. This research investigated whether non-invasive imaging correlated with animal behavior and morphological indicators of disease in response to serum levels of [Met]-enkephalin. Using the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model, adult female C57BL/6 J mice were randomized to receive daily injections of 0.1 mg/kg naltrexone (NTX) (= low dose naltrexone, LDN), 10 mg/kg Opioid Growth Factor (OGF) (chemically termed [Met]-enkephalin) or saline beginning at the time of disease induction. Daily composite behavior scores were recorded over a 30-day period based on tail tone, gait, righting reflex, and limb strength. Prior to disease onset (day 7), and at peak disease (day 18), mice were imaged and tissues (blood and spinal cord) collected at day 30 for serum analyses of OGF and morphology. Serum OGF levels of EAE mice treated with saline were significantly reduced from baseline and from normal mice. Longitudinal cohort data demonstrated an increase in fractional anisotropy in all cohorts by day 18. There was a significant decrease in radial diffusivity in the saline group seen at day 18 whereas the axial diffusivity was not altered amongst treatment groups. Treatment with OGF or LDN resulted in mean diffusivity rates that were comparable to baseline (normal) levels at days 7 and 18. Luxol fast blue staining of the lumbar spinal cords demonstrated a 16 % reduction in myelin staining in saline treated EAE animals when compared to OGF and LDN treated EAE mice. Immunohistochemistry with Olig2 (pan-oligodendrocyte marker) and myelin basic protein (MBP) revealed that OGF and LDN treatment restored the area (%) of MBP and number of oligodendrocytes to that of normal spinal cord (∼75 %). Saline treated EAE mice had more demyelination and fewer oligodendrocytes than normal mice. Collectively, these data suggest that a panel of biomarkers including imaging, serum biomarker levels, and behavior correlate with progression of disease, and may begin to validate use of specific non-invasive markers for MS.
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