Alzheimer’s: A Neuroscientist at the OHSU Claims Scientists Missed a Major Form of Cell Death

Ferroptosis, a form of cell death, destroys microglia cells, which are associated with the brain’s immune system in vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Stephen Back suggested that attention had not been focused on microglia or white matter in the brain, thereby missing a critical aspect of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

It is common knowledge that activation of microglia mediates inflammation. But, as Dr. Back said, it was not well known that the microglia were dying in large numbers. He admits that until now they were not aware of that occurrence.

About the Study

The study was facilitated through the examination of post-mortem tissue from the human brains of persons with dementia.

Dr. Back has expertise in the study of myelin, a protective sheath that surrounds the brain’s nerve fibers. He also researched the delays in the formation of myelin in premature babies.

The new research is an extension of this work, uncovering an escalating form of neurodegeneration triggered by myelin deterioration. The lead author of the study, Dr. Philip Adeniyi, developed a novel technique that led to the aforementioned discovery.

About Ferroptosis

The normal function of microglia, as it relates to the human body’s immune system, is to clear cellular debris. When the myelin is disrupted, the microglia go to work and clear the debris. While working on the new study, the researchers discovered that in the process of clearing myelin (which is rich in iron), the microglia are also destroyed by ferroptosis.

The co-author, Dr. Kiera Degener, uncovered microglia degeneration in samples of tissue. Her finding was followed by Dr. Adeniyi’s development of an immunofluorescence technique that determined the cause of the brain’s microglial degeneration was iron toxicity. Note that myelin is also high in iron.

Results of the Study

The researchers theorize that the aforementioned cascading effect advances cognitive decline in vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

With that said, Dr. Back expects pharmaceutical companies, using this new discovery, to create compounds that focus on the reduction of the brain’s microglial degeneration.

Dr. Back suspects that the pattern of decline is the result of continuous episodes of insufficient blood flow and delivery of oxygen to the brain caused by a stroke or other conditions.

The doctor emphasized that dementia must be tackled early to keep it from becoming uncontrollable.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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