Iron occurs naturally in the human body. However, in people with Parkinson’s disease it distributes in an unusual way over the brain, according to a new study that has been published in the journal Brain.

Researchers applied a special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allowing them to map iron levels in the entire brain. It is the first time that this has been done in Parkinson’s disease.

Iron is indispensable for human metabolism. However, iron is also potentially harmful as it is able to trigger production of reactive molecular species that may cause “oxidative stress” and ultimately damage to neurons.

For the study, the researchers examined the brains of 25 people with Parkinson’s and 50 healthy subjects by using a special MRI technique called QSM, which is the acronym for “quantitative susceptibility mapping”.

As with conventional MRI, QSM is non-invasive and relies on a combination of magnetic fields, electromagnetic waves and analysis software to generate pictures of the insides of the human body. However, QSM benefits from raw data usually discarded in conventional MRI. As a consequence, QSM can probe a magnetic parameter indicating metallic presence.

Paper: “The whole-brain pattern of magnetic susceptibility perturbations in Parkinson’s disease”

Reprinted from materials provided by DZNE.

December 8, 2016