Substantia nigra neuromelanin magnetic resonance imaging in de novo Parkinson's disease patients.Eur J Neurol. 2015 Mar; 22(3):540-6.EJ
Depigmentation of the substantia nigra (SN) and locus coeruleus (LC) is a conspicuous pathological feature of Parkinson's disease (PD) and is related to the loss of neuromelanin, whose paramagnetic properties result in high signal on specific T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Recent studies have suggested that neuromelanin decrease in the SN and LC of PD patients may emerge as a possible diagnostic biomarker. The SN neuromelanin signal in de novo and early stage PD patients was studied to assess its diagnostic accuracy. This is the first study based on a semi-automated MRI analysis of the neuromelanin signal in de novo PD patients.
The inclusion criteria were untreated de novo PD and a 2-5 year disease duration; in addition, age matched healthy controls were enrolled. These were studied with a high-resolution T1-weighted MRI sequence at 3 T to visualize neuromelanin. The primary outcome was SN high signal area, length and neuromelanin/midbrain ratio obtained with semi-automated methods.
A total of 12 de novo PD patients and 10 PD patients with a 2-5 year disease duration were evaluated. The area, length of the SN T1 high signal and the SN neuromelanin/midbrain ratio were markedly decreased in the PD groups compared with age-matched controls, with a substantial overlap between the two PD groups.
Neuromelanin-sensitive MRI techniques can discriminate PD patients from healthy individuals with high sensitivity and specificity. Our findings are consistent with recent findings showing that PD neuromelanin changes remain stable during the course of the disease.