A team of scientists has come up with a method to predict impairments in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) by monitoring iron levels in their brains, says a study published recently in the Radiology journal.
This method will help physicians pinpoint patients at increased risk of developing a physical impairment and other related issues, the research results indicate.
Multiple sclerosis is a condition that targets three major structural components of the central nervous system, namely, the neurons, myelin, and the myelin-producing cells.
Brain atrophy is the currently accepted method doctors use to forecast the cognitive and physical deterioration in people with multiple sclerosis, but it “has limitations,” as the study’s senior author, Robert Zivadinov, a neurology professor from the University of Buffalo in New York, USA, states.
“Brain atrophy takes a long time to see and detect; we need an earlier, faster way to know who will develop an MS-related disability,” Zivadinov said.
Iron levels in the brain can help doctors predict impairments in patients with multiple sclerosis
Thus, iron levels magnetic resonance imaging studies have risen as a potential predictor of brain alterations related to the progression of multiple sclerosis.
Iron is essential for many cellular processes within the brain, such as the myelinization of neurons. Both iron deficiency and iron overdose are potentially damaging.
“It is known that there is more iron in deep grey matter structures in MS patients, but we have also seen in recent findings that there are regions where we find less iron in the brains of these patients,” the scientist explained.
Zivadinov and his co-workers matched iron levels in people with MS to those of healthy individuals through the use of an enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) approach known as “quantitative susceptibility mapping.”
People with multiple sclerosis are more likely to develop higher iron levels in the basal ganglia, a cluster of deep brain tissues that are critical for movement, in comparison to the healthy individuals that participated in the study.
On the other hand, patients with multiple sclerosis presented reduced iron levels in their thalamus, a critical brain area which helps process sensory pathways by serving as a bridge between specific brain structures and the spinal cord.