A new study suggests brain iron levels may predict disease progression in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) who carry the APOE ε4 risk allele.
Iron in the brain is an "underappreciated driver of disease progression" in AD, study author Ashley I. Bush, MBBS, PhD, senior principal research fellow, Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Australia, told Medscape Medical News.
"Measuring brain iron could be used to predict disease progression, and lowering brain iron levels might present as a novel therapeutic target to slow the disease process."
Their findings were described in a letter published in the January issue of JAMA Neurology.
The researchers used data from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database, which was launched in 2003 as a public–private partnership.
The primary goal of ADNI is to test whether serial MRI, positron emission tomography, other biological markers, and clinical and neuropsychological assessments can be combined to measure the progression of mild cognitive impairment and early AD.
The current study looked at the level of ferritin in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which indicates the brain iron load. According to Dr Bush, it has been known since the 1950s that elevated iron is a pathologic feature of AD. Iron elevation, he said, may cause oxidative stress, which damages neurons.
"But we didn't previously have evidence that iron elevation actually impacts on the clinical presentation," he said./.../