Magnetic resonance assessment of iron overload by separate measurement of tissue ferritin and hemosiderin iron

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Aug;1202:115-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05587.x.


With transfusional iron overload, almost all the excess iron is sequestered intracellularly as rapidly mobilizable, dispersed, soluble ferritin iron, and as aggregated, insoluble hemosiderin iron for long-term storage. Established magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) indicators of tissue iron (R(2), R(2)*) are principally influenced by hemosiderin iron and change slowly, even with intensive iron chelation. Intracellular ferritin iron is evidently in equilibrium with the low-molecular-weight cytosolic iron pool that can change rapidly with iron chelation. We have developed a new MRI method to separately measure ferritin and hemosiderin iron, based on the non-monoexponential signal decay induced by aggregated iron in multiple-spin-echo sequences. We have initially validated the method in agarose phantoms and in human liver explants and shown the feasibility of its application in patients with thalassemia major. Measurement of tissue ferritin iron is a promising new means to rapidly evaluate the effectiveness of iron-chelating regimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ferritins / chemistry
  • Ferritins / metabolism*
  • Hemosiderin / chemistry
  • Hemosiderin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Overload / metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Ferritins
  • Hemosiderin
  • Iron