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Alzheimer's disease could be better treated, thanks to a breakthrough discovery of the properties of the metals in the brain involved in the progression of the neurodegenerative condition, by an international research collaboration including the University of Warwick.
Dr. Joanna Collingwood, from Warwick's School of Engineering, was part of a research team which characterised iron species associated with the formation of amyloid protein plaques in the human brain—abnormal clusters of proteins in the brain. The formation of these plaques is associated with toxicity which causes cell and tissue death, leading to mental deterioration in Alzheimer's patients.
They found that in brains affected by Alzheimer's, several chemically-reduced iron species including a proliferation of a magnetic iron oxide called magnetite—which is not commonly found in the human brain—occur in the amyloid protein plaques. The team had previously shown that these minerals can form when iron and the amyloid protein interact with each other. Thanks to advanced measurement capabilities at synchrotron X-ray facilities in the UK and USA, including the Diamond Light Source I08 beamline in Oxfordshire, the team has now shown detailed evidence that these processes took place in the brains of individuals who had Alzheimer's disease. They also made unique observations about the forms of calcium minerals present in the amyloid plaques.
Understanding the significance of these metals to the progression of Alzheimer's could lead to more effective future therapies which combat the disease at its root.
Dr. Joanna Collingwood, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick's School of Engineering and expert in trace metals analysis, high resolution imaging, and neurodegenerative disorders, commented:
"Iron is an essential element in the brain, so it is critical to understand how its management is affected in Alzheimer's disease. The advanced X-ray techniques that we used in this study hav"