Alzheimer’s and Iron?

Alzheimer’s and Iron?

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As well as understanding the potential negative actions of tau and beta-amyloid proteins in the development of Alzheimer's disease researchers now believe that iron may also have a major role to play in its development.

Researchers at UCLA have studied two key areas of Alzheimer’s patients’ brains – the hippocampus and the thalamus. They found concentrations of iron in the former area, but not the latter, which was associated with tissue damage.

Lead researcher, Dr. George Bartzokis, has argued that the destruction of myelin, the fatty tissue that coats nerve fibres in the brain, and which disrupts the communication between neurons and promotes the build up of amyloid plaques which, in turn, destroy more and more myelin, and leads to cell death and the classic clinical signs of Alzheimer's, occurs much earlier in the break down process than is currently believed.

The research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, looks at the hypothesis that elevated tissue iron caused the tissue breakdown associated with Alzheimer's disease.

They targeted the hippocampus, a key area of the brain involved in the formation of memories, and compared it to the thalamus, which is relatively spared by Alzheimer's until the very late stages of the disease.

Lead author Bartzokis, explained:
"It is difficult to measure iron in tissue when the tissue is already damaged. But the MRI technology we used in this study allowed us to determine that the increase in iron is occurring together with the tissue damage. We found that the amount of iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in patients with Alzheimer's but not in the healthy older individuals — or in the thalamus. So the results suggest that iron accumulation may indeed contribute to the cause of Alzheimer's disease."

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