Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Iron Deposition in Neurological Disorders


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Abstract

Deposition of iron in the brain is proposed to play a role in the pathophysiology of the normal aging process and neurodegenerative diseases. Whereas iron is required for normal neuronal metabolism, excessive levels can contribute to the formation of free radicals, leading to lipid peroxidation and neurotoxicity. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful tool to detect excessive iron in the brain and longitudinally monitor changes in iron levels. Iron deposition is associated with a reduction in the T2 relaxation time, leading to hypointensity on spin-echo and gradient-echo T2-weighted images. The MRI changes associated with iron deposition have been observed both in normal aging and in various chronic neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer disease, and Parkinson disease. Magnetic resonance imaging metrics providing information about iron concentrations include R2, R2′, and R2*. The purpose of this review is to discuss the role of iron and its detection by MRI in various neurological disorders. We will review the basic biochemical properties of iron and its influence on MRI signal. We will also summarize the sensitivity and specificity of MRI techniques in detecting iron. The MRI and pathological findings pertaining to brain iron will be reviewed with respect to normal aging and a variety of neurological disorders. Finally, the biochemistry and pathophysiology surrounding iron, oxidative stress, free radicals, and lipid peroxidation in the brain will be discussed, including therapeutic implications. The potential role of iron deposition and its assessment by MRI provides exciting potential applications to the diagnosis, longitudinal monitoring, and therapeutic development for disorders of the brain.

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