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A recent study found that Alzheimer’s patients have an elevated level of magnetic iron oxides in the area of the brain that is affected by the disease.

Jon Dobson, professor, Keele University, Staffordshire, UK, looked at the brain tissue from 11 Alzheimer’s disease patients and 11 age-matched control subjects. For the first time it shows that the total concentration of biogenic magnetite is higher in Alzheimer’s brains (sometimes as high as 15 times normal). Also, gender seemed to play a role with female subjects having significantly higher levels of biogenic magnetite.

Researchers note that iron accumulation has been found with many neurodegenerative conditions including: Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), Huntington’s disease (HD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). What is notable is that the largest magnetite concentrations, and the smallest particles, are all from Alzheimer’s patients, which suggest that the genesis of the biogenic magnetite may be the same in all cases, but Alzheimer’s disease may be indicative of an accelerated process.

In recent years neuroferritinopathy–a hereditary neurodegenerative disease–has been found to have a mutation in the gene encoding for the ferritin light polypeptide. This helped researchers establish a direct link between neurodegeneration in the basal ganglia and the body’s primary iron storage protein, ferritin. The results of the iron accumulation in the brain is similar to that of Huntington’s disease.

Little is known about the accumulation of iron and its association to neurodegenerative diseases. Dobson speculates that magnetite formation may occur generally in the brain and may be associated with aging. For whatever reason the process is uncontrolled in the Alzheimer’s brain.