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Homeostasis of metal ions such as Zn(2+) is essential for proper brain function. Moreover, the list of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders involving a dysregulation of brain Zn(2+)-levels is long and steadily growing, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease as well as schizophrenia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, depression, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Down's syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Wilson's disease and Pick's disease. Furthermore, alterations in Zn(2+)-levels are seen in transient forebrain ischemia, seizures, traumatic brain injury and alcoholism. Thus, the possibility of altering Zn(2+)-levels within the brain is emerging as a new target for the prevention and treatment of psychiatric and neurological diseases.
Although the role of Zn(2+) in the brain has been extensively studied over the past decades, methods for controlled regulation and manipulation of Zn(2+) concentrations within the brain are still in their infancy. Since the use of dietary Zn(2+) supplementation and restriction has major limitations, new methods and alternative approaches are currently under investigation, such as the use of intracranial infusion of Zn(2+) chelators or nanoparticle technologies to elevate or decrease intracellular Zn(2+) levels. Therefore, this review briefly summarizes the role of Zn(2+) in psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases and highlights key findings and impediments of brain Zn(2+)-level manipulation. Furthermore, some methods and compounds, such as metal ion chelation, redistribution and supplementation that are used to control brain Zn(2+)-levels in order to treat brain disorders are evaluated.