icon-folder.gif   Conference Reports for NATAP  
  7th International Workshop
on HIV and Aging
September 26-27, 2016
Washington, DC
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Associations of CSF Iron Biomarkers with Neurocognitive
Function Over Time in HIV+ Adults

  Reported by Jules Levin
7th HIV & Aging Workshop Wash DC Sept 26-27
Harpreet Kaur, Ph.D.1
1Lerner Research Institute/Cleveland Clinic
W Bush2, S Letendre3, R Ellis3, R Heaton3, S Patton4, J Connor4, D Samuels5, T Hulgan5, and A Kallianpur1,6
2Case Western Reserve University,
3University of California-San Diego,
4Penn State Milton S. Hershey College of Medicine,
5Vanderbilt University,
6Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
Iron accumulation in the brain has been suggested to be a contributing factor to a number of neurodegenerative disorders, explained Thompson. "So it's a double-edged sword." Iron deficiency is a well-known cause of impaired cognitive, language, and motor development, but a report out today (January 9) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that even in apparently healthy young adults, variations in iron levels correlate with variations in brain structure integrity.
"[The researchers] make a very interesting connection between the issue of iron metabolism and the integrity of white matter, more specifically myelin"-the cellular sheath that enwraps and insulates neuronal axons-said George Bartzokis of the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.  "This would have been predicted by what is known about myelin, because it actually contains a lot of iron, so it is important that [they have] directly demonstrated this in humans with imaging." Children that are iron deficient-often as a result of poor diet-score poorly in mathematics and language tests. Given such effects, Paul Thompson of the UCLA and his colleagues decided to "look to see if, even among normal healthy kids, variations in their iron levels that are fairly subtle end up mattering. And the surprise is, they matter a lot."
The team measured blood serum transferrin levels-an inverse but more reliable measure of available iron-in adolescents, and then performed brain scans when these teens reached their early twenties. Among other things, the team looked at myelin function using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging, and found a strong positive correlation between teen iron levels and myelin integrity in the twenty-something subjects. "We're very surprised at how much of a difference it makes to your brain to have good iron in your diet when you're developing," said Thompson. "The simplest message is that the iron in your diet as a teenager is associated with better brain integrity when you grow up."
They found that people with higher levels of ferritin - in all groups - had faster declines in cognitive abilities and accelerated shrinking of the hippocampus. Levels of ferritin were also a linked to a greater likelihood of people with mild cognitive impairment developing Alzheimer's.
The researchers found higher levels of ferritin corresponded to earlier ages for diagnoses - roughly three months for every 1 nanogram per millilitre increase.
In a study carried out 24 years ago, a drug called deferiprone halved the rate of Alzheimer's cognitive decline, Ayton told Clare Wilson at NewScientist. "Perhaps it's time to refocus the field on looking at iron as a target."
"Lowering CSF ferritin, as might be expected from a drug like deferiprone, could conceivably delay mild cognitive impairment conversion to Alzheimer's disease by as much as three years," the team wrote.