Susceptibility weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is sensitive to the local concentration of iron and myelin. Here, we describe a robust image processing pipeline for quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) and R2* mapping of fixed post-mortem, whole-brain data. Using this pipeline, we compare the resulting quantitative maps in brains from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and controls, with validation against iron and myelin histology. Twelve post-mortem brains were scanned with a multi-echo gradient echo sequence at 7T, from which susceptibility and R2* maps were generated. Semi-quantitative histological analysis for ferritin (the principal iron storage protein) and myelin proteolipid protein was performed in the primary motor, anterior cingulate and visual cortices. Magnetic susceptibility and R2* values in primary motor cortex were higher in ALS compared to control brains. Magnetic susceptibility and R2* showed positive correlations with both myelin and ferritin estimates from histology. Four out of nine ALS brains exhibited clearly visible hyperintense susceptibility and R2* values in the primary motor cortex. Our results demonstrate the potential for MRI-histology studies in whole, fixed post-mortem brains to investigate the biophysical source of susceptibility weighted MRI signals in neurodegenerative diseases like ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Ferritin, Myelin, Post-mortem, Quantitative susceptibility mapping, R2* mapping