Voskuhl RR, Patel K, Paul F, Gold SM, Scheel M, Kuchling J, Cooper G, Asseyer S, Chien C, Brandt AU, Meyer CE, MacKenzie-Graham A.

Background: Women are more susceptible to multiple sclerosis (MS) than men by a ratio of approximately 3:1. However, being male is a risk factor for worse disability progression. Inflammatory genes have been linked to susceptibility, while neurodegeneration underlies disability progression. Thus, there appears to be a differential effect of sex on inflammation versus neurodegeneration. Further, gray matter (GM) atrophy is not uniform across the brain in MS, but instead shows regional variation. Here, we study sex differences in neurodegeneration by comparing regional GM atrophy in a cohort of men and women with MS versus their respective age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Methods: Voxel-based morphometry (VBM), deep GM substructure volumetry, and cortical thinning were used to examine regional GM atrophy. Results: VBM analysis showed deep GM atrophy in the thalamic area in both men and women with MS, whereas men had additional atrophy in the putamen as well as in localized cortical regions. Volumetry confirmed deep GM loss, while localized cortical thinning confirmed GM loss in the cerebral cortex. Further, MS males exhibited worse performance on the 9-hole peg test (9HPT) than MS females. We observed a strong correlation between thalamic volume and 9HPT performance in MS males, but not in MS females. Conclusion: More regional GM atrophy was observed in men with MS than women with MS, consistent with previous observations that male sex is a risk factor for worse disease progression. 

Biol Sex Differ. 2020 Aug 28;11(1):49

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