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Effects of aluminum on the nervous system and its possible link with neurodegenerative diseases

Aluminum is environmentally abundant, but not an essential element. Aluminum has been associated with several neurodegenerative diseases, such as dialysis encephalopathy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinsonism dementia in the Kii peninsula and Guam, and in particular, Alzheimer's disease. Although this association remains controversial, there is increasing evidence which suggests the implication of metal homeostasis in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Aluminum, zinc, copper, and iron cause the conformational changes of Alzheimer's amyloid-β protein. Al causes the accumulation of tau protein and amyloid-β protein in experimental animals. Aluminum induces neuronal apoptosis in vivo as well as in vitro. Furthermore, a relationship between aluminum and the iron-homeostasis or calcium-homeostasis has been suggested. Based on these findings, the characteristics of aluminum neurotoxicity are reviewed, and the potential link between aluminum and neurodegenerative diseases is reconsidered.