In the quest to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, researchers are studying the impact of metals such as iron, copper and zinc on the brain, according to The Wall Street Journal.
This week The Journal reported on an Australian study, published last Sunday, that discovered that getting rid of excess iron in the brain can temper the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in tests with mice. It’s hoped that the same can be shown to be true for humans.
The presence of higher-than-normal amounts of certain metals in the brain, namely iron and copper, are found in people who have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, according to The Journal. In contrast, low levels of zinc seem to negatively impact memory, and if that metal gets into the wrong parts of the brain it can cause trouble.
In the past research on Alzheimer’s has focused on markers, or certain proteins, that are found in abundance in the brain’s of those with the disease. But The Journal suggests that studying the part that metals play in the brain’s functioning could provide another option for a possible cure.
The problem with metals and the brain is that as people age, the proper level of subsances such as iron or zinc becomes unbalanced. In the case of iron, for example, that metal is important because it helps the body generate energy, according to The Journal. But iron also creates free radicals that can damage cells in the body.
Without enough iron, a person becomes anemic. But too much iron in the brain isn’t good, and high levels of that metal has been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
In the Australian research, aging mice who had Alzheimer’s symptoms also accumulated iron in their brains, The Journal reported. But when the mice were given a drug that got rid of the extra iron, their Alzheimer’s symptoms “reversed,” according to the story.
The article offers an interesting look at another link in the complicated path to finding a cure for dreaded Alzheimer’s.