The eye as a window to brain inflammation in MS

Early research

There’s a type of inflammation called compartmentalised inflammation. It’s common in progressive MS and is connected to the progression of disability. But current disease-modifying treatments (DMTs) don't effectively work on compartmentalised inflammation.

It’s also more difficult to measure compartmentalised inflammation with a brain MRI compared to other types of inflammation.

About the project

That’s why the researchers now want to test if compartmentalised inflammation also develops in the back of the eye, called the retina. If it does, the eye may be a better site to measure compartmentalised inflammation than the brain.

The researchers will look at tissue from the eye and brain that was donated by people with relapsing or progressive MS that passed away. And they’ll try to answer two questions:

  1. Is there a difference in inflammation and nerve cell damage between the eye and the brain?
  2. Can we find different types and functions of inflammatory cells in the eye and the brain?

How will it help people with MS?

If the researchers find compartmentalised inflammation in the eye, they may be able to use eye imaging technology already used for other conditions to measure the development of compartmentalised inflammation in people with MS. And they could also test the effect this inflammation has on how the nerves function by using vision tests. And that would be more comfortable, less costly and more detailed than measuring it with a brain MRI.

In the future, measuring compartmentalised inflammation in the eye could be used to test how well new treatments work.