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Hysterectomy is associated with increased levels of iron in the brain
Date:10/4/2011

The human body has a love-hate relationship with iron. Just the right amount is needed for proper cell function, yet too much is associated with brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Science knows that men have more iron in their bodies and brains than women. These higher levels may be part of the explanation for why men develop these age-related neurodegenerative diseases at a younger age.

But why do women have less iron in their systems than men? One possible explanation for the gender difference is that during menstruation, iron is eliminated through the loss of blood.

Now, a new study by UCLA researchers confirms this suspicion and suggests strategies to reduce excess iron levels in both men and women. Dr. George Bartzokis, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and colleagues compared iron levels in women who had undergone a hysterectomy before menopause -- and thus, did not menstruate and lose iron -- with levels in postmenopausal women who had not had a premenopausal hysterectomy. They found the women who had undergone a hysterectomy had higher levels of iron in their brains than the women who hadn't, and further, they had levels that were comparable to men.

The research is reported in the current online edition of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

The researchers used an MRI technique that can measure the amount of ferritin iron in the brain (ferritin is a protein that stores iron). They examined 39 postmenopausal women, 15 of whom had undergone a premenopausal hysterectomy. They looked at several areas in the brain three white-matter regions and and five gray-matter regions. Fifty-four male subjects were also imaged for comparison.

The researchers found that among the women, the 15 who had undergone a hysterectomy had concentrations of iron in the white-matter regions of the brain's frontal lobe that did not differ
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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