Researchers have found that the way we transport iron through our blood stream can malfunction and cause a build up of worm-like fibrils containing bands of rust.
|Professor Sadler explains the formation of “rusty worms” in the blood|
The team, from the University of Warwick and the Indian Institute of Technology hope that the finding could provide insight into the way in which iron gets deposited in brain tissue causing forms of neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.
Mmeber of the team Professor Sandeep Verma said: “Deposits of iron exposed in this way and fond in the brain are a possible cause of some forms of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’ and Huntington’s diseases. Until now there has been no real idea as to how iron becomes deposited there in such a dangerous way.”
Human blood relies on Transferrin protein to safely transport iron through the body to points where it can be used. Iron is transported by a method that combines it with carbonate – binding it to two sites on the transferrin molecule, which then curls around the iron to seal it.
However the researchers – led by Professor Peter Sadler from the University of Warwick – found that by simply taking transferring and leaving it to dry on a surface the molecules arranged themselves into tendrils – or worm-like fibrils.
“Even more interestingly, the iron that was once safely wrapped up inside the transferring now seemed to be settling along the length of the fibrils plating them in a series of spots or bands along the length of the tendril shape. This leaves the iron dangerously exposed and available to interact in ways that could cause cell damage,” said Professor Sadler.
The team – all research chemists – now hope that neurology researchers will be able to build on the work to gain more understanding of how some neurodegenerative diseases can occur and how they can be treated.