In multiple sclerosis, pathological changes of both tissue iron and myelin occur, yet these factors have not been characterized in a longitudinal fashion using the novel iron- and myelin-sensitive quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) MRI technique. We investigated disease-relevant tissue changes associated with myelin loss and iron accumulation in multiple sclerosis deep gray matter (DGM) over two years. One-hundred twenty (120) multiple sclerosis patients and 40 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included in this prospective study. Written informed consent and local IRB approval were obtained from all participants. Clinical testing and QSM were performed both at baseline and at follow-up. Brain magnetic susceptibility was measured in major DGM structures. Temporal (baseline vs. follow-up) and cross-sectional (multiple sclerosis vs. controls) differences were studied using mixed factorial ANOVA analysis and appropriate t-tests. At either time-point, multiple sclerosis patients had significantly higher susceptibility in the caudate and globus pallidus and lower susceptibility in the thalamus. Over two years, susceptibility increased significantly in the caudate of both controls and multiple sclerosis patients. Inverse thalamic findings among MS patients suggest a multi-phase pathology explained by simultaneous myelin loss and/or iron accumulation followed by iron depletion and/or calcium deposition at later stages.
Keywords: Iron; Longitudinal study; Multiple sclerosis; QSM; Quantitative susceptibility mapping.