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A study of trace elements in human brain aging: application of nuclear analytical techniques in the health field


In Brazil, as in most developing countries, the increase in life expectancy and of the elderly population has led to a greater number of demented individuals or patients with Alzheimer's diseases. As a result, the rate of dementia has become one of most serious problems facing public health. Numerous hypotheses have tried to explain the etiology of degenerative diseases including genetic defects, defects in the metabolism of membrane processes mediated by free radicals, neurotoxicity of trace elements, or combination of these factors. Of these hypotheses, one that has gained considerable attention is the involvement of trace element toxicity. Several elements are essential in many biological reactions; however, any variation in their levels may influence cognitive function. In several countries, mainly in Europe and North America, determinations of elements in brain tissue have been performed to study mental illness. However in Brazil, this type of data is very scarce.The objective of this project is to determine concentrations of chemical elements in different brain regions of cognitively normal individuals in order to define reference values and to further study the correlation between elemental concentrations in the brains of individuals with cognitive decline and brain diseases (Alzheimer's disease). The data to be obtained will be of great interest for studies in the field of geriatrics by identifying factors that lead to degenerative disease development and chronic conditions of physical aging. The neutron activation analysis technique to be used in this project presents advantageous for analyzing brain tissues. Among the elements to be quantified are Br, Ca, Cl, Co, Cs, Fe, K, Mn, Na, Rb, Se and Zn. (AU)

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