An antioxidant commonly used to reduce iron levels in the blood may protect the brain from changes related to Alzheimer’s disease, a promising new study has found.
University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences researchers said treatment with a drug called deferiprone -- an iron chelator -- lowered blood iron levels in rabbits with Alzheimer’s-like brain abnormalities. After treatment, investigators said the brain abnormalities – including beta-amyloid plaques -- returned to normal levels.
The findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, could have significant implications for human Alzheimer’s patients, researchers said.
For the study, investigators led by Dr. Othman Ghribi, fed rabbits a high-cholesterol diet that caused them to accumulate beta-amyloid plaques in their brains – a hallmark of Alzheimer's. Researchers then treated the rabbits with deferiprone and found it lowered their blood iron and plaque levels.
They said the drug may work by acting as an antioxidant and counter the damage cause by “free iron” in the bloodstream.
Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death among Americans, affecting nearly 1 in 8 people over the age of 65. There is currently no treatment, but the latest study adds to a growing body of scientific evidence that changes in the way the body handles iron and other metals like copper and zinc may start years before the onset of symptoms.