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Journal: Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology : organ of the Society for Minerals and Trace Elements (GMS)


The genetic predispositions which describe a diagnosis of familial Alzheimer’s disease can be considered as cornerstones of the amyloid cascade hypothesis. Essentially they place the expression and metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein as the main tenet of disease aetiology. However, we do not know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and environmental factors may yet be shown to contribute towards its onset and progression. One such environmental factor is human exposure to aluminium and aluminium has been shown to be present in brain tissue in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. We have made the first ever measurements of aluminium in brain tissue from 12 donors diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease. The concentrations of aluminium were extremely high, for example, there were values in excess of 10μg/g tissue dry wt. in 5 of the 12 individuals. Overall, the concentrations were higher than all previous measurements of brain aluminium except cases of known aluminium-induced encephalopathy. We have supported our quantitative analyses using a novel method of aluminium-selective fluorescence microscopy to visualise aluminium in all lobes of every brain investigated. The unique quantitative data and the stunning images of aluminium in familial Alzheimer’s disease brain tissue raise the spectre of aluminium’s role in this devastating disease.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Scientific method, Protein, Neuron, Environment, Dementia, Beta amyloid, Amyloid precursor protein


In view of the wide-spread deficiency of iron and zinc in populations dependent on plant foods, it is desirable to improve the bioavailability of the same. Specific dietary spices may alter the ultrastructure and permeability characteristics of intestines. Groups of Wistar rats were fed piperine, capsaicin and ginger containing diets for 8 weeks in order to examine their possible influence on intestinal absorption of iron, zinc and calcium. Everted segments of duodenum, jejunum and ileum portions of small intestines isolated from these rats were examined for ex vivo uptake of iron, zinc and calcium from incubations containing digesta of finger millet. Higher uptake of iron, zinc and calcium by the intestinal segments from spice-fed animals was observed. The increase in the mineral uptake was the highest for calcium with >100% in some cases. The positive influence of dietary capsaicin was more pronounced on zinc uptake as compared to that of iron. Uptake of the glutamic acid standard was 87% and 62% higher in the case of jejunal segments of rats fed piperine and ginger. The higher intestinal uptake of iron and zinc as a result of consumption of pungent spices could encourage a strategy to reduce deficiency of these trace elements prevalent in population dependent on plant based foods.

Concepts: Digestive system, Large intestine, Intestine, Small intestine, Duodenum, Ginger, Jejunum, Spice


Despite the introduction of salt iodization programmes as national measures to control iodine deficiency, several European countries are still suffering from mild iodine deficiency (MID). In iodine sufficient or mildly iodine deficient areas, iodine deficiency during pregnancy frequently appears in case the maternal thyroid gland cannot meet the demand for increasing production of thyroid hormones (TH) and its effect may be damaging for the neurodevelopment of the foetus. MID during pregnancy may lead to hypothyroxinaemia in the mother and/or elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in the foetus, and these conditions have been found to be related to mild and subclinical cognitive and psychomotor deficits in neonates, infants and children. The consequences depend upon the timing and severity of the hypothyroxinaemia. However, it needs to be noted that it is difficult to establish a direct link between maternal iodine deficiency and maternal hypothyroxinaemia, as well as between maternal iodine deficiency and elevated neonatal TSH levels at birth. Finally, some studies suggest that iodine supplementation from the first trimester until the end of pregnancy may decrease the risk of cognitive and psychomotor developmental delay in the offspring.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Infant, Thyroid-stimulating hormone, Hypothyroidism, Thyroid, Thyroid hormone, Iodine, Triiodothyronine


Zinc which is an essential element has very important effects on growth and immune system in patients with thalassemia major ™. The effects of two oral iron chelator agents, desferrioxamine (DFO) and deferiprone (DFP), on zinc levels were investigated in previous studies and they were found to cause zinc deficiency. Zinc level alteration by the new chelator deferasirox (DFX) is not present in the literature. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of different oral chelators on serum and urine zinc levels in TM patients. Zinc levels are compared in the patients who received different chelators: only DFX, combined chelation with DFO plus DFP and the healthy control group. A total of 56 patients with TM were involved in this study: 39 patients received only DFX and 17 patients were given combined treatment DFO+DFP between August 2008 and August 2009. In addition, a control group was established from the healthy population. Blood was taken from all the patients for serum zinc levels and 24hour-urine samples were collected for urine zinc levels. Serum zinc levels were found to be 64.8±14.8μg/dL in DFX group and 66.5±15.1μg/dL in DFO+DFP group. These levels were statistically lower than that in the control group (149±54.3μg/dL) (p<0.05), but there was no statistically difference between the two different chelation groups (p>0.05). The urine zinc levels of DFX and DFO+DFP group were 662.2±428.2μg/day and 1182.3±980.3μg/day respectively (p<0.05). Urinary zinc excretion in the chelation groups (DFX and DFO+DFP) was significantly higher than the control group (395.1±208.9μg/day) (p<0.05). As a conclusion, the new chelation agent, DFX, also leads to zinc deficiency, though its urinary zinc excretion is lower. New studies are required to examine the effects of DFX on zinc extensively. Zinc levels of patients with TM should be followed up regularly and zinc supply should be given at early ages.

Concepts: Blood, Mathematics, Red blood cell, Thalassemia, Zinc, Chelation, Chelation therapy, Deferoxamine


The brain pathology in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) indicates marked and ongoing inflammatory reactivity with concomitant neuronal damage. These findings are suggestive of neuronal insult as a result of external factors, rather than some type of developmental mishap. Various xenobiotics have been suggested as possible causes of this pathology. In a recent review, the top ten environmental compounds suspected of causing autism and learning disabilities were listed and they included: lead, methyl-mercury, polychorinated biphenyls, organophosphate pesticides, organochlorine pesticides, endocrine disruptors, automotive exhaust, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and perfluorinated compounds. This current review, however, will focus specifically on mercury exposure and ASD by conducting a comprehensive literature search of original studies in humans that examine the potential relationship between mercury and ASD, categorizing, summarizing, and discussing the published research that addresses this topic. This review found 91 studies that examine the potential relationship between mercury and ASD from 1999 to February 2016. Of these studies, the vast majority (74%) suggest that mercury is a risk factor for ASD, revealing both direct and indirect effects. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that mercury exposure is causal and/or contributory in ASD.

Concepts: Brain, Causality, Factor analysis, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, Autism, Aromatic hydrocarbon, Biphenyl, Chelation therapy


Serum levels of zinc and copper have been proposed to associate with sleep duration. Mechanisms, such as inflammatory processes, have been suggested to relate this association. However, earlier studies have been conducted in small sample sizes. Human studies investigating the suggested associations while controlling for potential confounding factors are lacking.

Concepts: Inflammation, Sample size, Zinc, Copper, The Association, C-reactive protein, Long, Short


The beneficial effects of fish consumption in both children and adults are well known. However, the intake of methylmercury, mainly from contaminated fish and shellfish, can have adverse health effects. The study group on the prevention of exposure to methylmercury (GEPREM-Hg), made up of representatives from different Spanish scientific societies, has prepared a consensus document in a question and answer format, containing the group’s main conclusions, recommendations and proposals. The objective of the document is to provide broader knowledge of factors associated with methylmercury exposure, its possible effects on health amongst the Spanish population, methods of analysis, interpretation of the results and economic costs, and to then set recommendations for fish and shellfish consumption. The group sees the merit of all initiatives aimed at reducing or prohibiting the use of mercury as well as the need to be aware of the results of contaminant analyses performed on fish and shellfish marketed in Spain. In addition, the group believes that biomonitoring systems should be set up in order to follow the evolution of methylmercury exposure in children and adults and perform studies designed to learn more about the possible health effects of concentrations found in the Spanish population, taking into account the lifestyle, eating patterns and the Mediterranean diet.

Concepts: European Union, Mediterranean Sea, Performance, Spain, Seafood, Olive oil, Mediterranean diet, Methylmercury


Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust and yet, paradoxically, it has no known biological function. Aluminium is biochemically reactive, it is simply that it is not required for any essential process in extant biota. There is evidence neither of element-specific nor evolutionarily conserved aluminium biochemistry. This means that there are no ligands or chaperones which are specific to its transport, there are no transporters or channels to selectively facilitate its passage across membranes, there are no intracellular storage proteins to aid its cellular homeostasis and there are no pathways which evolved to enable the metabolism and excretion of aluminium. Of course, aluminium is found in every compartment of every cell of every organism, from virus through to Man. Herein we have investigated each of the ‘silent’ pathways and metabolic events which together constitute a form of aluminium homeostasis in biota, identifying and evaluating as far as is possible what is known and, equally importantly, what is unknown about its uptake, transport, storage and excretion.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Evolution, Metabolism, Organism, Earth


The aim of our study was to assess the iodine status of Polish boys with severe autism compared to their healthy peers and evaluate the relationship between urinary iodine, thyroid hormones, body mass index and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptomatology.

Concepts: Body mass index, Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Thyroid hormone, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, PDD-NOS, Iodine


Mercury is a heavy metal that causes serious health problems in exposed subjects. The most toxic form, i.e., methylmercury (MeHg), is mostly excreted through human hair. Numerous analytical methods are available for total Hg analysis in human hair, including cold vapour atomic fluorescence spectrometry (CV-AFS), inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and thermal decomposition amalgamation atomic absorption spectrometry (TDA-AAS). The aim of the study was to compare the TDA-AAS with the ICP-MS in the Hg quantification in human hair. After the washing procedure to minimize the external contamination, from each hair sample two aliquots were taken; the first was used for direct analysis of Hg by TDA-AAS and the second was digested for Hg determination by the ICP-MS. Results indicated that the two data sets were fully comparable (median; TDA-AAS, 475ngg(-1); ICP-MS, 437ngg(-1)) and were not statistically different (Mann-Whitney test; p=0.44). The two techniques presented results with a good coefficient of correlation (r=0.94) despite different operative ranges and method limits. Both techniques satisfied internal performance requirements and the parameters for method validation resulting sensitive, precise and reliable. Finally, the use of the TDA-AAS can be considered instead of the ICP-MS in hair analysis in order to reduce sample manipulation with minor risk of contamination, less time consuming due to the absence of the digestion step and cheaper analyses.

Concepts: Protein, Spectroscopy, Mass spectrometry, Analytical chemistry, Mercury, Scientific techniques, Digestion, Atomic absorption spectroscopy