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  • MRI assesses dangerous iron levels in the brain

May 2006
Too much iron accumulation in the brain may cause age-related degenerative diseases. Men are more likely to develop these diseases at a younger age than women, but research has shown that brain iron increases with age in both genders. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, have discovered gender differences in iron levels using MRI.

As reported in the April 2006 issue of Neurobiology of Aging, 93 males and 72 females ages 19 to 82 received MRI scans in which researchers examined the amount of iron in eight areas of the brain. They used the field-dependent relaxation rate increase method, which involves using two MRI instruments to detect the difference in iron content in ferritin molecules (where brain iron is stored). Ferritin increases with the field strength of the MRI instrument, which, in turn, reveals the amount of iron present. The women had lower iron levels than men in five regions of the brain, and there was a significant linear increase in iron content with age for both genders in four regions. These results support the possibility that brain iron may be a modifiable risk factor for age-related degenerative brain diseases.

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