Alzheimer’s disease affects one-in-four people around the world. This form of dementia forces people to forget valuable things such as the names of their family members. A recent study has discovered how this disease can spread quickly in the body.
Iron It Out
Researchers at the Medical University of Graz recruited 200 people for a study surrounding Alzheimer’s. The subjects were split into two groups: one that had Alzheimer’s and one without the disease. With the aid of MRI scans, they discovered higher iron levels in people with Alzheimer’s. “Iron levels in the brain are like amyloid and tangles — a pathological feature that is associated with [Alzheimer’s],” stated Melbourne Dementia Research Centre director Ashley Bush.
This Looks Familiar
Bush previously ran a similar study to this back in 2011. With the help of Dr. Scott Ayton from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Bush found out amyloid is a strong aid for iron. Amyloids can speed up Alzheimer’s disease by damaging nerve cells. The growth of Alzheimer’s disease can be impacted by an opposing balance of both properties. “Those individuals with high amyloid but low iron will also eventually go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, but much later than their high-iron counterparts,” Ayton said in the study, which went public in 2017.
More Research Needed?
Alzheimer’s Association director of scientific programs and outreach Keith Fargo doesn’t think iron can make a major impact. “This study suggests there’s some kind of connection between iron accumulation in the brain and cognitive deterioration, but we can’t say yet whether the decline causes the iron buildup or the iron buildup causes the decline,” Fargo said in a statement. “Or maybe there’s some other, more complex connection.”
One concern regarding this study is how dietary iron comes into play. Bush believes more work should be done to see if dietary iron also speeds up Alzheimer’s disease. “In theory, it’s possible. But it will take quite a bit of research to determine whether this is a concern that can be modified,” Bush said in a statement.