7T MRI could enable earlier Parkinson’s diagnosis

Performing MRI at 7-Tesla provides precise characterization of the substantia nigra (SN) and visualization of its inner organization, consequently allowing for accurate differentiation between healthy subjects and Parkinson disease patients, according to a study published on March 5 by Radiology.

PD is recognized by neuronal loss in the SN pars compacta and especially in the ventrolateral tier of neurons, yet standard MRI techniques are not effective in its diagnosis and follow-up. These techniques are limited in the evaluation of the SN because spatial resolution and the contrast-to-noise ratio insufficiently measure its inner structure. MRI at 7-Tesla has recently demonstrated promising insight into neuroanatomy and clinical MR application of structural imaging.

Lead author Mirco Cosottini, MD, of the University of Pisa in Italy, and colleagues conducted an exploratory study in order to evaluate the anatomy of SN in healthy subjects with targeted 7-Tesla MRI. The brains of 38 participants were studied by the researchers, including 17 PD patients, 21 healthy controls, and a brain specimen to identify the accuracy of ultra-high-field 7-Tesla MRI in identifying PD.

Cosotinni and colleagues distinguished a three-layered organization of the SN during the study. Based on abnormalities in this area, they correctly classified patients with PD with a sensitivity of 100 percent and specificity of 96.2 percent.

“Parkinson’s disease diagnosis remains clinically based, but with the introduction of 7-T MRI into clinical practice, a supporting radiologic diagnosis can be made,” Cosotinni remarked in a press release.

“Because at present 7-Tesla MR imaging systems are authorized exclusively for research purpose and not for clinical use, the demonstration of their clinical usefulness and their safety will be the conditions required for their acceptance into the medical community,” the authors concluded.