Tuberous sclerosis or tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a rare, multi-system genetic disease that causes non-malignant tumors to grow in the brain and on other vital organs such as the kidneys, heart, eyes, lungs, and skin. A combination of symptoms may include seizures, developmental delay, behavioral problems, skin abnormalities, lung and kidney disease. TSC is caused by a mutation of either of two genes, TSC1 and TSC2, which encode for the proteins hamartin and tuberin respectively. These proteins act as tumor growth suppressors, agents that regulate cell proliferation and differentiation.
The name, composed of the Latin tuber (swelling) and the Greek skleros (hard), refers to the pathological finding of thick, firm and pale gyri, called “tubers,” in the brains of patients postmortem. These tubers were first described by Désiré-Magloire Bourneville in 1880; the cortical manifestations may sometimes still be known by the eponym Bourneville’s disease.
Tuberous sclerosis in MRI.
The tubers are typically triangular in configuration, with the apex pointed towards the ventricles, and are thought to represent foci of abnormal neuronal migration. The T2 signal abnormalities may subside in adulthood, but will still be visible on histopathological analysis. On magnetic resonance imaging, TSC patients can exhibit other signs consistent with abnormal neuron migration (radial white matter tracts hyperintense on T2WI, heterotopic gray matter).