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April 2008 – Parkinson’s Disease April 18, 2008

Posted by Anne in Uncategorized.

Following my meeting with Caroline I am now specifically looking at where iron is found in the body and     any research is being done in this area. I go back to Liz Carpenter on the Protein Crysatlography beamline to see if there are any users looking at iron in the body that I could talk to.Unfortunately there isn’t at the moment and I come away wondering how I can find my link.

However, one thing I have found during my time at Diamond is that you cannot plan specific meetings with beamline scientists and users to look at science you are interested in. While they are working on the beamlines time is precious and very often work is confidential so I am doubly grateful whenever anyone can spare time to talk to me.

I am so lucky then when I am invited to meet with Joanna Collingwood from Keele University and Mark Davidson University of Florida who are comparing thin slices from a specific region in the brain from a group of 50% are healthy humans and 50% with Parkinson’s disease (see image right). Not only that, but the final piece in my jigsaw, they are looking at iron concentrations!
The brain region is called the substantia nigra, and contains an important group of brain cells called dopaminergic neurones. These neurones are important for many functions, including enabling us to make controlled voluntary movements (i.e. they are “motor neurones”).

A very exciting moment when they tell me they are looking at both the concentrations of iron and the different forms of iron (primarily different iron oxide structures) that are present in this region. It is already known that in Parkinson’s sufferers there are fewer dopaminergic neurones in the brain as they are destroyed, but there are higher concentrations of iron in this region, and within the remaining dopaminergic neurones. This research is looking at where exactly this extra iron is found (also a range of other metals including zinc, calcium, copper, and manganese).

Is it more concentrated in the living cells or dying cells, or in the support cells? How much the iron in these cells is contained in ferritin (primary iron storage protein, which is only a few nanometres in diameter), and how much is found in neuromelanin, which is a pigment that can bind iron, and that is found in the cell bodies of the dopaminergic neurones. Also when the iron is found, what type of iron compound is it?



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