Iron Deposition in the Brain After Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Ian Galea, Andrew Durnford, James Glazier, Sophie Mitchell, Suraj Kohli, Lesley Foulkes, Jeanette Norman, Angela Darekar, Seth Love, Diederik O Bulters, James A R Nicoll, Delphine Boche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: After aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), thrombus forms over the cerebral cortex and releases hemoglobin. When extracellular, hemoglobin is toxic to neurones. High local hemoglobin concentration overwhelms the clearance capacity of macrophages expressing the hemoglobin-haptoglobin scavenger receptor CD163. We hypothesized that iron is deposited in the cortex after SAH and would associate with outcome.

METHODS: Two complementary cross-sectional studies were conducted. Postmortem brain tissue from 39 SAH (mean postictal interval of 9 days) and 22 control cases was studied with Perls' staining for iron and immunolabeling for CD163, ADAM17 (a disintegrin and metallopeptidase domain 17), CD68, and Iba1 (ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1). In parallel, to study the persistence of cortical iron and its relationship to clinical outcome, we conducted a susceptibility-weighted imaging study of 21 SAH patients 6 months postictus and 10 control individuals.

RESULTS: In brain tissue from patients dying soon after SAH, the distribution of iron deposition followed a gradient that diminished with distance from the brain surface. Iron was located intracellularly (mainly in macrophages, and occasionally in microglia, neurones, and glial cells) and extracellularly. Microglial activation and motility markers were increased after SAH, with a similar inward diminishing gradient. In controls, there was a positive correlation between CD163 and iron, which was lost after SAH. In SAH survivors, iron-sensitive imaging 6 months post-SAH confirmed persistence of cortical iron, related to the size and location of the blood clot immediately after SAH, and associated with cognitive outcome.

CONCLUSIONS: After SAH, iron deposits in the cortical gray matter in a pattern that reflects proximity to the brain surface and thrombus and is related to cognitive outcome. These observations support therapeutic manoeuvres which prevent the permeation of hemoglobin into the cortex after SAH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1633-1642
Number of pages10
Issue number5
Early online date24 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Professor Galea was supported by the Medical Research Council (MR/L01453X/1). Tissue samples were obtained from the North Bristol NHS Trust as part of UK Brain Archive Information Network (BRAIN UK), which is funded by the Medical Research Council (G0701018, G1100578, MR/N004272/1) and Brain Tumour Research.

Funding Information:
Professor Galea has received research funding from Bio Products Laboratory Limited, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Medical Research Council supporting work outside the remit of this article but topically related and within the past 36 months. The other authors report no conflicts.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. All rights reserved.

Structured keywords

  • Dementia Research Group


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