White matter changes in patients with friedreich ataxia after treatment with erythropoietin

Egger K, Clemm von Hohenberg C, Schocke MF, Guttmann CR, Wassermann D, Wigand MC, Nachbauer W, Kremser C, Sturm B, Scheiber-Mojdehkar B, Kubicki M, Shenton ME, Boesch S

J Neuroimaging 2014 Sep-Oct;24(5):504-8

PMID: 24015771


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Erythropoietin (EPO) has received growing attention because of its neuroregenerative properties. Preclinical and clinical evidence supports its therapeutic potential in brain conditions like stroke, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia. Also, in Friedreich ataxia, clinical improvement after EPO therapy was shown. The aim of this study was to assess possible therapy-associated brain white matter changes in these patients.

METHODS: Nine patients with Friedreich ataxia underwent Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) before and after EPO treatment. Tract-based spatial statistics was used for longitudinal comparison.

RESULTS: We detected widespread longitudinal increase in fractional anisotropy and axial diffusivity (D||) in cerebral hemispheres bilaterally (P < .05, corrected), while no changes were observed within the cerebellum, medulla oblongata, and pons.

CONCLUSIONS: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first DTI study to investigate the effects of EPO in a neurodegenerative disease. Anatomically, the diffusivity changes appear disease unspecific, and their biological underpinnings deserve further study.