Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Proteomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

‘Big Science’ uncovers another piece in the Alzheimer’s puzzle

Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Evidence found of the possible cause of brain-cell-damaging toxic iron.

British scientists have found evidence that  biological material contributing to lesions in the brain, characteristic in Alzheimer’s patients, may also cause the build-up of brain-cell-damaging toxic iron. Scientists have made the discovery using advanced imaging techniques at giant X-ray facilities - the Diamond Light Source synchrotron in Oxfordshire and other synchrotrons in Switzerland and the US.

Iron occurs naturally in the human body, including the brain. The conversion of this iron between two chemical forms is essential for normal function. However, one of these forms of iron, known as ferrous iron, can be highly toxic if it is overproduced or builds up in tissues where it can’t be processed and removed properly. Scientists have known for some time that this toxic iron builds up in the same location as the brain lesions caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have been studying the protein fragment that makes up the Alzheimer’s lesions, a peptide known as beta-amyloid, to try to understand how and why the build-up of toxic iron is occurring; and whether it’s a cause or a symptom of the brain cell damage in Alzheimer’s patients.

At the UK’s national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source, beams of light 10 billion times brighter than the sun, were used to shine a light on the problem, to study the chemical and magnetic makeup of the iron after it had interacted with the beta-amyloid peptide. By using these techniques along with electron microscopy they witnessed predominant biological form of iron changing into the more toxic ferrous form. As well as Diamond Light Source, studies were also carried out at the Swiss Light Source and the Advanced Light Source in the USA, using applied advanced x-ray techniques, more commonly used to study the latest hi-tech materials.

The experiments revealed that the peptide that makes up Alzheimer’s lesions is capable of converting iron into the form which could be causing damage to brain cells. This means that the lesions caused by Alzheimer’s could be causing a subtle disruption in how the brain manages iron, confronting brain cells with a level of toxicity that they simply cannot manage.

This discovery paves the way for future medical research into treatments that could halt or manage the conversion of iron into this toxic form, potentially slowing or limiting the damage to the brain. It could also lead to developments in using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect early stages of the disease by mapping altered patterns of iron in the brain.

Dr Neil Telling from the University of Keele, who lead the research in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Warwick and the University of Florida, commented: “Alzheimer’s is a sensitive and emotive area of research.  The disease involves progressive brain cell failure, the reasons for which are still not fully understood. When findings showed increased levels of toxic iron within Alzheimer’s disease tissues, we realised that techniques we had used to study other iron based materials could be applied to understand where this toxic iron came from. Our observations suggest an origin for the toxic iron; that it may well be made toxic by the lesions themselves. This could open up new avenues of research into treatments to stop the build-up of this neurotoxic substance, potentially limiting the damage done by Alzheimer’s. Understanding how this toxic iron forms could also tell us where to look for early stages of the disease in MRI scans, perhaps even before irreversible brain damage occurs. It’s at an early stage but these promising results seem to be another piece of the jigsaw to fully understand Alzheimer’s.”

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, commented: “Clumps of amyloid beta are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease although why they accumulate in this way or cause brain cells to die is still being understood. This study suggests that the protein may cause iron to turn into its toxic form, leading to damage to brain cells. Why this might happen and how it can be stopped are important future avenues for research.
 
“There will be a million people with dementia in the UK by 2021 yet we still don’t know what causes the condition and there are only limited treatments available. We desperately need more research aimed at unravelling the underlying causes of dementia to help us in our quest to find better treatments and ultimately a cure.”

Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond Light Source, commented: “It is always wonderful to see a piece of research come out of Diamond Light Source which has the potential to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Research done at Diamond is leading step changes in our understanding of diseases like this, and supporting technological innovation and new drug designs for a range of different diseases. We put an enormous amount of work into maintaining Diamond as a centre of cutting edge research and making our light source available to 3,000 scientists every year; these groups rely on our advanced facilities to further their research and make crucial steps forward.”





Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 4,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,300+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Key Cellular Mechanism Involved in Neurodegeneration and Herpes Uncovered
The discovery of a protein complex at the heart of cellular transport networks could have broad implications for disease research.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Scientists Unlock Structure of Elusive ‘Stress’ Protein
New discovery paves the way for a transformation in drug treatments for depression, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Scientific News
Protein-Based “Cancer Signature” Uncovered
Researchers investigated the expression of ribosomal proteins in human tissues and discovered a cancer type specific signature which could be used to predict the progression of the disease.
Predicting Leukaemia Development in Cancer Patients
Biomarker may predict which formerly treated cancer patients will develop highly fatal form of leukemia.
‘NoBody,’ a Microprotein On a Mission
Researchers identify over 400 microproteins encoded in the human genome, one of which clears unneeded genetic material inside cells.
Top 10 Life Science Innovations of 2016
2016 has seen the release of some truly innovative products. To help you digest these developments, The Scientist have listed their top picks for the year.
Largest Resource of Protein-Protein Interactions
Researchers have developed the largest ever database of protein-protein interactions.
Bright Red Fluorescent Protein Created
Scientists have created a bright red, fluorescent protein that could be used to track essential cellular processes.
Protein Self-Regulates Abundance
Researchers have uncovered how a protein, that plays a crucial role in embryonic stem cell renewal, is regulated.
'Lab on the Skin' for Sweat Analysis
Northwestern University researchers develop a low-cost wearable electronic device that collects and analyzes sweat for health monitoring.
Building Better Nanodiscs
Researchers have improved upon the design of nanodiscs that provide an unprecedented view of viral infection.
Breast Cancer Cells Starve for Cystine
Depriving triple negative breast cancer, a treatment-resistant form of breast cancer, of cystine results in cancer cell death.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
4,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,300+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!