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Using zinc isotopes to trace Alzheimer’s disease

Two Sorbonne Paris Cité University researchers, Frédéric Moynier, from the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, and Marie Le Borgne, from the Vascular Translational Research Laboratory at Bichat Hospital (UMR 1148 - INSERM), have used a specific method originally developed to study the formation of the Earth for medical purposes: the measurement of zinc (Zn) isotopic variations.

Using zinc isotopes to trace Alzheimer’s disease

© Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Publication date: 28/03/2017

Press, Research

MRI Brain © MART PRODUCTION on Pexel

One of the known consequences of Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of Zn-rich plaques in the brain: amyloid plaques. In this study, the researchers worked on mouse models genetically modified to develop this type of plaque after a period of 9 months. The researchers demonstrated that the presence of plaques altered the isotopic composition of the mice’s brains, which became richer in heavy Zn isotopes. This is explained by a change in the speciation of Zn, linked in the plaque proteins to amino acids enriched in heavy Zn isotopes (histidine and glutamate). As a result, it is possible to monitor the evolution of the disease by measuring the isotopic composition of Zn.

This study represents the first evidence of a change in the isotopic composition of Zn in animals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The next step will be to determine whether similar changes are observed in human patients.

Ref: F. Moynier, J. Foriel, A. Shaw, M. Le Borgne – Distribution of Zn isotopes during Alzheimer’s disease: www.geochemicalperspectivesletters.org/article1717

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