Elevated iron levels are associated with many types of neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. However, these elevated iron levels do not necessarily correlate with elevated levels of the iron storage or transport proteins, ferritin and transferrin. As such, little is known about the form of this excess iron.
It has recently been proposed that some of the excess iron in neurodegenerative tissue may be in the form of the magnetic iron oxide magnetite (Fe3O4). We demonstrate, for the first time to our knowledge, using highly sensitive superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) magnetometry, that the concentrations of magnetite are found to be significantly higher in three samples of Alzheimer's disease tissue than in three age- and sex-matched controls. These results have implications, not only for disease progression, but also for possible early diagnosis.