Fractional anisotropy of white matter, disability and blood iron parameters in multiple sclerosis

13 Aug 2020

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disorder related to myelin damage, which can be investigated by neuroimaging techniques such as fractional anisotropy (FA), a measure of microstructural white matter properties. The objectives of this study were to investigate (1) the relationship between FA and disability using an extremes of outcome approach, and (2) whether blood iron parameters were associated with FA and/or disability. Patients diagnosed with MS (n = 107; 14 males and 93 females) had iron parameter tests and disability determinations using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). FA was recorded in 48 white matter tracts in 11 of the female patients with MS and 12 female controls. Results: In patients with high disability scores the mean FA was significantly lower (0.34 ? 0.067) than in the control group (0.45 ? 0.036; p = 0.04), while patients with low disability had mean FAvalues (0.44 ? 0.014) similar to controls (p = 0.5). Positive associations were found between FA and the iron parameters serum iron, ferritin and percentage transferrin saturation (%Tfsat) in all the white matter tracts. For % Tfsat, the associations were highly significant in 14 tracts (p < 0.01; r-values 0.74?0.84) and p < 0.001 (r = 0.83) in the superior fronto occipital fasciculus (LH). In the whole patient group a trend was found towards an inverse association between the EDSS and the %Tfsat (r = ?0.26, p = 0.05) after excluding male gender and smoking as confounders, suggesting reduced disability in the presence of higher blood iron parameters. Additionally, significant inverse associations between disease duration and haemoglobin (p = 0.04) as well as %Tfsat (p = 0.02) suggested that patients with MS may experience a decrease in blood iron concentrations over time.