The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The retina converts light rays into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are interpreted as the images we see. The retina is delicate and composed of different cellular layers. Specific parts of the retina behave similarly to the cells in the brain during MS. Therefore, assessing retinal layers (using optical coherence tomography or OCT) could be an alternative measure for assessing the health of brain cells. This is important because assessing the retina is cheaper and more accessible than brain MRI.

In this study from Munich, Germany, investigators assessed 108 people with MS (without therapy, on first-line therapy, or on second-line therapy) over the period of one year. They found that the volume of a specific layer of the retina (called the inner nuclear layer) at the beginning of the study (baseline) was associated with disease activity on MRI and number of MS attacks. The investigators emphasise that more studies are needed to confirm their findings but, if they do, it would suggest that assessing the retina through optical coherence tomography (OCT) could be used to monitor MS activity.

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