Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry imaging of white and gray matter iron distribution in Alzheimer's disease frontal cortex

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Iron deposition in the brain is a feature of normal aging, though in several neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, the rate of iron accumulation is more advanced than in age-matched controls. Using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry imaging we present here a pilot study that quantitatively assessed the iron content of white and gray matter in paraffin-embedded sections from the frontal cortex of Alzheimer's and control subjects. Using the phosphorus image as a confirmed proxy for the white/gray matter boundary, we found that increased intrusion of iron into gray matter occurs in the Alzheimer's brain compared to controls, which may be indicative of either a loss of iron homeostasis in this vulnerable brain region, or provide evidence of increased inflammatory processes as a response to chronic neurodegeneration. We also observed a trend of increasing iron within the white matter of the frontal cortex, potentially indicative of disrupted iron metabolism preceding loss of myelin integrity. Considering the known potential toxicity of excessive iron in the brain, our results provide supporting evidence for the continuous development of novel magnetic resonance imaging approaches for assessing white and gray matter iron accumulation in Alzheimer's disease.

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