Copper levels and Alzheimer's disease.

Date:

05-Nov-2002

Source

Neurology

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Article

Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease that causes severe degeneration of brain tissue. Plaque deposits accumulate in the spaces between brain cells. The cells themselves form twisted, spaghetti-like masses called "neurofibrillary tangles." Why these changes happen in the brains of some people but not others remains a matter of speculation. Scientists are unsure as to which of these abnormalities occurs first, the plaque or the tangles. What triggers them in the first place is not known for certain.

In its beginning stages, Alzheimer's can be a difficult disease to spot; the changes in memory and behavior are barely noticeable at first. The disease may worsen within the first several years or take as long as twenty to progress. Average survival time after diagnosis is generally four to eight years. Memory loss gradually worsens, along with a decline in ability to perform routine daily tasks. Late stage Alzheimer's sufferers experience increasing disorientation, impaired judgment, personality changes, difficulty in learning, and a loss of language skills. As yet, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease.

A recent study examined the role that serum trace minerals, such as peroxides, iron, copper and transferrin, had on cognition in Alzheimer's disease. These mineral levels were measured in 79 patients with AD and in 76 normal individuals. Using brain MRIs, the researchers evaluated neuropsychological performance in relation to the mineral status. The results of this preliminary study showed that copper levels were higher in AD patients when compared to normal subjects. This level of copper also correlated to poor neuropsychological performance. The authors of this study concluded that copper may potentially play a role in the neuro-degenerative progress of Alzheimer's disease.1

References

1. Squitti R, et al. Elevation of serum copper levels in Alzheimer's disease. Neurology. Oct 2002;59:1153-61.