Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping Indicates a Disturbed Brain Iron Homeostasis in Neuromyelitis Optica - A Pilot Study

PLoS One. 2016 May 12;11(5):e0155027. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155027. eCollection 2016.


Dysregulation of brain iron homeostasis is a hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases and can be associated with oxidative stress. The objective of this study was to investigate brain iron in patients with Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) using quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM), a quantitative iron-sensitive MRI technique. 12 clinically confirmed NMO patients (6 female and 6 male; age 35.4y±14.2y) and 12 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (7 female and 5 male; age 33.9±11.3y) underwent MRI of the brain at 3 Tesla. Quantitative maps of the effective transverse relaxation rate (R2*) and magnetic susceptibility were calculated and a blinded ROI-based group comparison analysis was performed. Normality of the data and differences between patients and controls were tested by Kolmogorov-Smirnov and t-test, respectively. Correlation with age was studied using Spearman's rank correlation and an ANCOVA-like analysis. Magnetic susceptibility values were decreased in the red nucleus (p<0.01; d>0.95; between -15 and -22 ppb depending on reference region) with a trend toward increasing differences with age. R2* revealed significantly decreased relaxation in the optic radiations of five of the 12 patients (p<0.0001; -3.136±0.567 s(-1)). Decreased relaxation in the optic radiation is indicative for demyelination, which is in line with previous findings. Decreased magnetic susceptibility in the red nucleus is indicative for a lower brain iron concentration, a chemical redistribution of iron into less magnetic forms, or both. Further investigations are necessary to elucidate the pathological cause or consequence of this finding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / metabolism*
  • Pilot Projects


  • Iron