• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of pnasPNASInfo for AuthorsSubscriptionsAboutThis Article
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 15, 1992; 89(16): 7683–7687.
PMCID: PMC49775

Magnetite biomineralization in the human brain.

Abstract

Although the mineral magnetite (Fe3O4) is precipitated biochemically by bacteria, protists, and a variety of animals, it has not been documented previously in human tissue. Using an ultrasensitive superconducting magnetometer in a clean-lab environment, we have detected the presence of ferromagnetic material in a variety of tissues from the human brain. Magnetic particle extracts from solubilized brain tissues examined with high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, electron diffraction, and elemental analyses identify minerals in the magnetite-maghemite family, with many of the crystal morphologies and structures resembling strongly those precipitated by magnetotactic bacteria and fish. These magnetic and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy measurements imply the presence of a minimum of 5 million single-domain crystals per gram for most tissues in the brain and greater than 100 million crystals per gram for pia and dura. Magnetic property data indicate the crystals are in clumps of between 50 and 100 particles. Biogenic magnetite in the human brain may account for high-field saturation effects observed in the T1 and T2 values of magnetic resonance imaging and, perhaps, for a variety of biological effects of low-frequency magnetic fields.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.5M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Images in this article

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Brittenham GM, Farrell DE, Harris JW, Feldman ES, Danish EH, Muir WA, Tripp JH, Bellon EM. Magnetic-susceptibility measurement of human iron stores. N Engl J Med. 1982 Dec 30;307(27):1671–1675. [PubMed]
  • Gomori JM, Grossman RI, Goldberg HI, Zimmerman RA, Bilaniuk LT. Intracranial hematomas: imaging by high-field MR. Radiology. 1985 Oct;157(1):87–93. [PubMed]
  • Adair RK. Constraints on biological effects of weak extremely-low-frequency electromagnetic fields. Phys Rev A. 1991 Jan 15;43(2):1039–1048. [PubMed]
  • Savitz DA, Wachtel H, Barnes FA, John EM, Tvrdik JG. Case-control study of childhood cancer and exposure to 60-Hz magnetic fields. Am J Epidemiol. 1988 Jul;128(1):21–38. [PubMed]
  • London SJ, Thomas DC, Bowman JD, Sobel E, Cheng TC, Peters JM. Exposure to residential electric and magnetic fields and risk of childhood leukemia. Am J Epidemiol. 1991 Nov 1;134(9):923–937. [PubMed]
  • Kirschvink JL. Ferromagnetic crystals (magnetite?) in human tissue. J Exp Biol. 1981 Jun;92:333–335. [PubMed]
  • Baker RR, Mather JG, Kennaugh JH. Magnetic bones in human sinuses. Nature. 1983 Jan 6;301(5895):79–80. [PubMed]
  • Frankel RB, Blakemore RP, Wolfe RS. Magnetite in freshwater magnetotactic bacteria. Science. 1979 Mar 30;203(4387):1355–1356. [PubMed]
  • de Araujo FF, Pires MA, Frankel RB, Bicudo CE. Magnetite and magnetotaxis in algae. Biophys J. 1986 Aug;50(2):375–378. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Gould JL, Kirschvink JL, Deffeyes KS. Bees have magnetic remanence. Science. 1978 Sep 15;201(4360):1026–1028. [PubMed]
  • Walcott C, Green RP. Orientation of homing pigeons altered by a change in the direction of an applied magnetic field. Science. 1974 Apr 12;184(4133):180–182. [PubMed]
  • Mann S, Sparks NH, Walker MM, Kirschvink JL. Ultrastructure, morphology and organization of biogenic magnetite from sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka: implications for magnetoreception. J Exp Biol. 1988 Nov;140:35–49. [PubMed]
  • HALLGREN B, SOURANDER P. The effect of age on the non-haemin iron in the human brain. J Neurochem. 1958 Oct;3(1):41–51. [PubMed]
  • Gorby YA, Beveridge TJ, Blakemore RP. Characterization of the bacterial magnetosome membrane. J Bacteriol. 1988 Feb;170(2):834–841. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Drayer BP, Olanow W, Burger P, Johnson GA, Herfkens R, Riederer S. Parkinson plus syndrome: diagnosis using high field MR imaging of brain iron. Radiology. 1986 May;159(2):493–498. [PubMed]
  • Chen JC, Hardy PA, Clauberg M, Joshi JG, Parravano J, Deck JH, Henkelman RM, Becker LE, Kucharczyk W. T2 values in the human brain: comparison with quantitative assays of iron and ferritin. Radiology. 1989 Nov;173(2):521–526. [PubMed]
  • Bizzi A, Brooks RA, Brunetti A, Hill JM, Alger JR, Miletich RS, Francavilla TL, Di Chiro G. Role of iron and ferritin in MR imaging of the brain: a study in primates at different field strengths. Radiology. 1990 Oct;177(1):59–65. [PubMed]
  • Pool R. Electromagnetic fields: the biological evidence. Science. 1990 Sep 21;249(4975):1378–1381. [PubMed]

Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences

Formats:

Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...

Links

  • Cited in Books
    Cited in Books
    PubMed Central articles cited in books
  • Compound
    Compound
    PubChem Compound links
  • MedGen
    MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles
  • Substance
    Substance
    PubChem Substance links

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...