Increased Iron Levels In Brain Seen In People With MS

shutterstock_157370876New imaging research conducted by researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada has provided the means to determine whether iron deposits in the brain comes as a cause or a consequence of multiple sclerosis. In addition, the researchers have also shed more light on the so-called liberation therapy for MS and its ineffectivity in treating the said disease. the findings of the study can be found on in the online publication of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating  neurological disease that usually affects young adults, although the disease may occur at any age. It can also cause a wide array of symptoms that may differ from person to person, which may range from simple blurred vision or headaches to loss of balance and painful muscle spasms. One controversial treatment proposed for multiples sclerosis is the liberation therapy, which is based on the Zamboni hypothesis that proposes MS may be caused by a narrowing of the jugular veins that allows iron deposits to accumulate in the brain and further cause MS.

Ravi Menon, PhD., of the Robarts Researdh Institute of the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and PhD. candidate Matthew Quinn used 3-Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI in order to scan the brains of 22 patients with clinically isolated syndrome or CIS. These are patients that experience a single clinical attack, with at least half of the cases were diagnosed as MS. The rest went on to be diagnosed with different diseases. There were also 16 controls studied that were age and sex matched with the said patients.

According to Menon, who led the said study, “We wanted to know if the iron deposits happen early in the process, or whether it’s something that accumulates with time as the disease progresses. We also studied the veins that drain from the brain and looked for a correlation between the diameter of of these veins and iron accumulation. One of the reasons to do this, of course was the hypothesis proposed by Paolo Zamboni that if you had narrow jugular veins, this would give rise to additional iron and in turn cause MS.”

The researchers found iron deposits in the brain in the CIS group that are higher than the amount found in the control group. The accumulation occurs in the brain’s deep gray matter, which suggests it occurs early in the course of the said disease. The MRI scans also revealed that the higher iron deposits start causing subtle damage to the brain’s white matter at the early stages of the disease. In addition, the researchers no correlation between the iron deposits and the diameter of the veins, casting doubt on the veracity of the Zamboni hypothesis regarding MS. Both the CIS and control group displayed cases of narrowed veins, which did not relate to the iron deposits in the brain among the patients.

“So while the iron in the brain correlates with the disability of the subjects, the iron in the brain does not correlate with the actual diameter of the jugular veins. So the Zamboni hypothesis is incorrect as far as the iron being related to some kind of obstruction,” Meno added.

Source: University of Western Ontario. “New imaging research shows increased iron in the brain in early stages of MS.” ScienceDaily, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

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