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Iron builds a better brain: brain integrity is linked to iron homeostasis

Brain imaging and gene analyses in twins reveal that white matter integrity is linked to an iron homeostasis gene.

Iron deficiency is a well-known cause of impaired cognitive, language, and motor development, but a report out today (January 9) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that even in apparently healthy young adults, variations in iron levels correlate with variations in brain structure integrity.

“[The researchers] make a very interesting connection between the issue of iron metabolism and the integrity of white matter, more specifically myelin”—the cellular sheath that enwraps and insulates neuronal axons—said George Bartzokis of the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.  “This would have been predicted by what is known about myelin, because it actually contains a lot of iron, so it is important that [they have] directly demonstrated this in humans with imaging.

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