Lower levels of glutathione in the brains of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis patients measured by 1H magnetic resonance chemical shift imaging at 3 T

Mult Scler. 2011 Mar;17(3):289-96. doi: 10.1177/1352458510384010. Epub 2010 Oct 4.


Background: Disability levels for patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) often worsen despite a stable MRI T(2) lesion burden. The presence of oxidative stress in the absence of measurable inflammation could help explain this phenomenon. In this study, the assessment of an in vivo marker of oxidative stress, cerebral glutathione (GSH), using magnetic resonance chemical shift imaging (CSI) is described, and GSH levels were compared in patients with SPMS and healthy controls.

Objective: To assess whether GSH, a key antioxidant in the brain, is lower in the SPMS patients compared to matched controls.

Methods: Seventeen patients with SPMS (Expanded Disability Status Scale=4.0-7.0; length of MS diagnosis=19.4 ± 7 years) and 17 age- and gender-matched healthy controls were studied. GSH levels were measured in the fronto-parietal regions of the brain using a specially designed magnetic resonance spectroscopy technique, CSI of GSH, at 3T.

Results: The levels of GSH were lower for SPMS patients than for controls, the largest reduction (18.5%) being in the frontal region (p=0.001).

Conclusion: The lower GSH levels in these patients indicate the presence of oxidative stress in SPMS. This process could be at least partially responsible for ongoing functional decline in SPMS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kansas
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / metabolism
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Biomarkers
  • Glutathione