Paramagnetic Metal Accumulation in the Deep Gray Matter Nuclei Is Associated With Neurodegeneration in Wilson’s Disease

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Background

Neuropathological studies have revealed copper and iron accumulation in the deep gray matter (DGM) nuclei of patients with Wilson’s disease (WD). However, the association between metal accumulation and neurodegeneration in WD has not been well studied in vivo. The study was aimed to investigate whether metal accumulation in the DGM was associated with the structural and functional changes of DGM in neurological WD patients.

Methods

Seventeen neurological WD patients and 20 healthy controls were recruited for the study. Mean bulk susceptibility values and volumes of DGM were obtained from quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM). Regions of interest including the head of the caudate nucleus, globus pallidus, putamen, thalamus, substantia nigra, red nucleus, and dentate nucleus were manually segmented. The susceptibility values and volumes of DGM in different groups were compared using a linear regression model. Correlations between susceptibility values and volumes of DGM and Unified Wilson’s Disease Rating Scale (UWDRS) neurological subscores were investigated.

Results

The susceptibility values of all examined DGM in WD patients were higher than those in healthy controls (P < 0.05). Volume reductions were observed in the head of the caudate nucleus, globus pallidus, putamen, thalamus, and substantia nigra of WD patients (P < 0.001). Susceptibility values were negatively correlated with the volumes of the head of the caudate nucleus (rp = −0.657, P = 0.037), putamen (rp = −0.667, P = 0.037), and thalamus (rp = −0.613, P = 0.046) in WD patients. UWDRS neurological subscores were positively correlated with the susceptibility values of all examined DGM. The susceptibility values of putamen, head of the caudate nucleus, and dentate nucleus could well predict UWDRS neurological subscores.

Conclusion

Our study provided in vivo evidence that paramagnetic metal accumulation in the DGM was associated with DGM atrophy and neurological impairment. The susceptibility of DGM could be used as a biomarker to assess the severity of neurodegeneration in WD.

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