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High iron, copper levels damage DNA, linked to Alzheimer's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Excess copper and iron damage DNA

Study shows Asian spice curcumin blocks DNA damage from high levels of the metals.

Too much iron and copper in the brain can interfere with DNA repair, potentially contributing to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease as well as other neurodegenerative disorders, suggests a new study review.

Scientists at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston discovered a combination of DNA damage that causes oxidative stress in the body, and high levels of copper and iron are consistently associated with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

They also found the Indian spice curcumin can help repair DNA damage from high levels of the elements that can ‘free-float’ in the body and cause damage . The spice binds to the metals, allowing enzymes to repair damage from reactive oxygen species.

Postdoctoral fellow Muralidhar Hegde, lead author of the paper explains, "We don't yet know enough about all the biochemical mechanisms involved, but we have found multiple toxic mechanisms linking elevated iron and copper levels in the brain and extensive DNA damage — pathological features associated with most neurodegenerative disorders."

For their study, researchers looked at the ability of the body to repair DNA damage from that should occur naturally with the help of enzymes

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In their experiments, they found iron and copper significantly interfere with the activity of two DNA repair enzymes, known as NEIL1 and NEIL2.

Next they tested substances that promote NEIL1 and NEIL2 activity, finding the Asian spice curcumin was one of the strongest agents tested that could bond to copper and iron and in turn facilitating DNA repair.

Curcumin helps maintain DNA integrity from copper, iron exposure

Hegde said, curcumin “was very effective in maintaining NEIL activity in cells exposed to both copper and iron.

Reactive oxygen species cause the majority of the brain cell DNA damage that we see in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, as well as most other neurodegenerative disorders," Hegde said. "It's bad enough if this damage occurs on one strand of the DNA double helix, but if both strands are damaged at locations close to each other you could have a double-strand break, which would be fatal to the cell."

The authors contend two factors are linked to brain disorders - DNA damage from reactive oxygen species and high levels of copper and iron in the brain.

In their study, the Asian spice curcumin was able to bind to the metals copper and iron that seem to promote Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders. The finding sheds light on the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease that are also linked to DNA damage from reactive oxygen species.