Aluminum & Alzheimers

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Brandeis University researcher Gerald Pasman and his colleagues have recently discovered new data supporting a possible link between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease.

The research, highlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led the group to conclude that limiting human exposure to high aluminum concentrations might reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and other aluminum-related neurodegenerative diseases.

"Our research gives credence to the proposition that aluminum plays a role in Alzheimer's disease," Pasman said, "Minimizing aluminum intake or removing it from the body may serve as a preventive measure in reducing Alzheimer's."

As a result of acid rain, aluminum is found in drinking water today at levels at least 20 times higher than 20 years ago. Limiting exposure to aluminum is a difficult task, but, according to researchers, a medicine may be developed that will remove it from the body and reduce the probability of the aged developing Alzheimer's disease.

The group synthesized portions of brain cell proteins most affected by Alzheimer's. Using calcium and aluminum ions for the experiment, Pasman determined that aluminum may play a role in the formation of tangles, insoluble proteins that are characteristic of the neurodegenerative disease.

Working with the ions, Pasman noticed that they both cause neuronal protein fragments to adopt a three-dimensional shape, typical of Alzheimer's disease tangles. More importantly, the changes in the protein shape caused by the calcium ions could be chemically reversed, and the effects of the aluminum ions could not.

These findings suggest that aluminum may accumulate in protein structures within nerve cells which could trigger a variety of molecular events that ultimately lead to tangle formation, and Alzheimer's disease.

PHOTO: Two elderly men having a conversation.

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