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MS Atlas - A molecular map of brain lesion stages in progressive multiple sclerosis

By Tobias Frisch, Maria L. Elkjaer, Richard Reynolds, Tanja Maria Michel, Tim Kacprowski, Mark Burton, Torben A. Kruse, Mads Thomassen, Jan Baumbach, Zsolt Illes

Posted 24 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/584920

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system with an untreatable late progressive phase in a high percentage of patients. Molecular maps of different stages of brain lesion evolution in patients with progressive MS (PMS) are missing but critical for understanding disease development and to identify novel targets to halt progression. We introduce the first MS brain lesion atlas (msatlas.dk), developed to address the current challenges of understanding mechanisms driving the fate of PMS on lesion basis. The MS Atlas gives means for testing research hypotheses, validating candidate biomarkers and drug targets. The MS Atlas data base comprises comprehensive high-quality transcriptomic profiles of 73 brain white matter lesions at different stages of lesion evolution from 10 PMS patients and 25 control white matter samples from five patients with non-neurological disease. The MS Atlas was assembled from next generation RNA sequencing of post mortem samples using strict, conservative preprocessing as well as advanced statistical data analysis. It comes with a user-friendly web interface, which allows for querying and interactively analyzing the PMS lesion evolution. It fosters bioinformatics methods for de novo network enrichment to extract mechanistic markers for specific lesion types and pathway-based lesion type comparison. We describe examples of how the MS Atlas can be used to extract systems medicine signatures. We also demonstrate how its interface can interactively condense and visualize the atlas’ content. This compendium of mechanistic PMS white matter lesion profiles is an invaluable resource to fuel future multiple sclerosis research and a new basis for treatment development.

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