In situ characterization and mapping of iron compounds in Alzheimer's disease tissue

J Alzheimers Dis. 2005 Aug;7(4):267-72. doi: 10.3233/jad-2005-7401.


There is a well-established link between iron overload in the brain and pathology associated with neurodegeneration in a variety of disorders such as Alzheimer's (AD), Parkinson's (PD) and Huntington's (HD) diseases [1]. This association was first discovered in AD by Goodman in 1953 [2], where, in addition to abnormally high concentrations of iron in autopsy brain tissue, iron has also been shown to accumulate at sites of brain pathology such as senile plaques [3]. However, since this discovery, progress in understanding the origin, role and nature of iron compounds associated with neurodegeneration has been slow. Here we report, for the first time, the location and characterisation of iron compounds in human AD brain tissue sections. Iron fluorescence was mapped over a frontal-lobe tissue section from an Alzheimer's patient, and anomalous iron concentrations were identified using synchrotron X-ray absorption techniques at 5 mum spatial resolution. Concentrations of ferritin and magnetite, a magnetic iron oxide potentially indicating disrupted brain-iron metabolism, were evident. These results demonstrate a practical means of correlating iron compounds and disease pathology in-situ and have clear implications for disease pathogenesis and potential therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Autopsy
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Frontal Lobe / metabolism
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Iron / metabolism*


  • Ferritins
  • Iron