Both Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease are progressive neurological diseases.
They both affect the brain. And about 20% of persons with Parkinson’s Disease will develop Parkinson’s dementia.
Yes, they can. Many persons with Parkinson’s are 85 years old or older — in the age group also at greatest risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Both diseases are primarily diagnosed by clinical diagnosis — by examination rather than testing. Recent studies show promise for PET scans for Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And now there’s new research that shows tau protein important in iron transport and in the death of neurons in Parkinson’s Disease.
Neurons are nerve cells. And this research may also explain tau protein’s role in Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s information about the new study…
Pumping iron: Tau’s role in neuron death revealed
Posted: Mon, 30 Jan 2012 18:55:44 +0000
The protein tau has long been at the center of a debate about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, but how the protein works is still mostly a mystery. A paper published online yesterday in Nature Medicine examines tau’s less-controversial role in Parkinson’s disease and demonstrates that the protein’s function in the brain is intimately related to the transport of iron, a big step toward understanding the molecular underpinnings of both neurodegenerative diseases.
To tease apart the function of tau, the team, led by neurobiologist Ashley Bush of the University of Melbourne, first examined autopsy tissue from people with Parkinson’s. They found iron had built up in the substantia nigra, the part of the brain that stops working in Parkinson’s disease. The team next examined tau’s relationship with iron in a mouse that lacks the protein. Tau knock-out mice older than six months showed accumulations of iron in their brains and developed the cognitive and physical impairments of Parkinson’s disease.
By giving the mice a drug that removes iron, the researchers found that they could prevent these changes. The findings suggest that tau deficiency may cause toxic iron accumulation that leads to the neurodegeneration seen in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. The results also suggest possible therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative disease, such as such as tau replacement or iron removal, although the authors say it is still unknown whether brain damage from iron accumulation could be reversed by such therapies.
Hyoung-gon Lee, a neurobiologist who studies Alzheimer’s disease at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, says the findings about tau’s role in iron export “definitely provide a new direction for how we should look at tau abnormality in neurodegenerative disease.”
In addition to teasing apart a function of tau, Bush says his team’s work also gives important insight into how mouse models are used to study Parkinson’s disease. “After seven months, the mouse model of Parkinson’s was much more complete and complex,” he says, suggesting that for age-dependent conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, keeping mice into old age may make the mouse model more accurate and useful.
How can this study of iron and tau protein lead to more study in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases?
Well, there is no animal model for Alzheimer’s Disease. So as Dr. Lee says above, this may lead to new ways to study Alzheimer’s.
And perhaps other neurological diseases, if the tau protein role can be determined.
Could tau protein and iron be a common cause of neuron damage and death in these diseases?
Yes, it’s possible this could be THE common factor. Or perhaps it could lead somewhere else. When you’re caring for someone with one of these diseases, research although interesting probably doesn’t help you much today.
It may be helpful for someone diagnosed in the future, which could be useful if you or someone you love is at risk for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease. Or maybe exhibiting symptoms without a definitive diagnosis.
Are you caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease?
Giving care to someone with a chronic condition can be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It can also be the best.
In caring for someone with a chronic condition you can give love and care. In focusing on them, though it’s easy to lose yourself.
Do you see how caring for someone else can lead you to forget yourself?
You can spend much of your day and night giving care or worrying about them. So much that you forget to take care of yourself.
It might be little things, like missing a meal. Or maybe it becomes routine to miss meals. Or losing sleep. Little things can lead to bigger…often insidiously.
Are you losing yourself in caregiving? Looking for a way to reclaim yourself, and don’t know where to start?
Now there’s a road map to help you in your caregiving journey. One that will show you the way to emerge from caregiving whole, healthy and happy.
To your healthy and happy caregiving,
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”
Bestselling Author of “What Do I Say In a Sympathy Card?”
Creator of A HEART PLAN