Iron deposits in multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease brains

Iron may contribute to the pathogenesis of neurological diseases by promoting oxidative damage. The localization of iron in multiple sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains was investigated to further the understanding of its pathogenic role in these disease states.

Earlier studies, utilizing a standard Perls' stain, yielded conflicting reports regarding the distribution of iron deposits in MS brains, and a previous study on AD brains utilized a diaminobenzidine (DAB) enhanced version of this stain. In the present study, a modified version of the DAB-enhanced stain was used; it utilizes sodium borohydride, proteinase K, Triton X-100 and xylenes to increase the accessibility of tissue iron to histochemical reagents.

This modified method can reveal iron deposits that are missed by the Perls' or DAB-enhanced Perls' stains. In addition to its normal deposition in oligodendrocytes and myelin, iron was detected in reactive microglia, ameboid microglia and macrophages in MS brains. In AD brains, three types of plaques were stained: dense core, clear core and amorphous plaques. Punctate staining was also observed in neurons in the corticies of AD brains.

 The structure accounting for punctate labeling may be damaged mitochondria, lipofuscin or amyloid deposits. Dense core plaques, clear plaques and punctate labeling were not detected in the previous AD study which utilized only the DAB-enhanced Perls' stain. The labeling of these additional structures illustrates the benefit of the modified method. In summary, the localization of iron deposition in MS and AD brains indicates potential sites where iron could promote oxidative damage in these disease states.