According to recent findings published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, the measures of iron levels in the brain can help in predicting which individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may develop dementia in the future.
The cutting-edge MRI scan can detect the level of iron deposits in different parts of the brain and can track cognitive (thinking, memory) and movement decline in individuals affected with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to stiffness, tremors, and a decline in movements. Almost 50% of people with PD suffer from dementia. However, the onset and severity vary among individuals.
At present, we have no reliable technique to track the progression of PD, therefore, the clinicians focus on monitoring symptoms. Conventional MRI is unable to monitor the progression of the disease because it detects the late stage of PD when the large-scale volume of the brain is lost.
Iron deposits in brain tissues during the normal aging process, resulting partially from the increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Excess iron leads to toxic effects and result in the irreversible modification of brain protein.
Recent studies showed that when Parkinson’s dementia-related proteins such as amyloid accumulate, iron begins to deposit in the affected brain parts. Dr. Rimona Weil, the lead author of the study said that for all researchers working on degenerative diseases of the nervous system like PD, iron deposition in the brain is of great interest.
Thus, researchers are looking for evidence that can support the use of iron level monitoring in evaluating disease progression, potentially in diagnostics.
97 individuals having Parkinson’s disease (PD) and were diagnosed with it within the past 10 years participated in the study as the experimental group. On the other hand, the study included 37 normal individuals without PD as a control group.
Researchers tested them all for their thinking, memory and motor functions. They used a new method namely quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) in order to track levels of iron in the brain, based on MRI.
They found that iron deposition in the thalamus and hippocampus were linked with poor thinking and memory scores. On the other hand, iron accumulation in the putamen region of the brain was linked with poor movement (motor function) score that shows even an advanced stage of PD.
Thus, the findings proposed that iron accumulation in the brain could be of great value to track the progression as well as the early diagnosis of PD and many other neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Weil in her previous study of 2019 found that the vision tests may be effective in predicting the cognitive decline in PD. Therefore, she along with her colleagues is looking up to further research studies that determine if the iron measures and simple eye vision tests will be helpful to predict which individuals are prone to develop dementia.
Different organizations and institutions supported this study including Wellcome, the Medical Research Council, Parkinson’s UK, the Cure Parkinson’s Trust, the National Institute of Health Research and Movement Disorders Society.