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Iron: More than a Metal

October 20, 2013 by

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a disease in which dopamanergic neurons experience substantial damage and even death. It affects 1-2% of people overage the age of 60, affecting more men than women. The causes of PD have typically been associated with oxidative stress and other toxic actions which lead to the build up of Lewy bodies in the brain which lead to death of neurons. A new study entitled, Targeting dysregulation of brain iron homeostasis in Parkinson’s disease by iron chelators, discusses the effect that iron might play in PD. One of the interesting things about this article is that it is able to supplement theories that are already in place about PD with a new idea. It doesn’t discount any of the old information about PD, but it adds a new piece to the puzzle that could help solve the problem.

Brain-iron homeostasis is regulated by interaction between two types of cells in the brain called endothelial cells and astrocytes. It is also regulated by two proteins called IPR1 and IPR2. These proteins help to regulate the amount of each type of iron in the brain. In the body, iron can take on two forms: one with a charge of +2 and one with a charge of +3. It is important to keep these two types of iron regulated because dysregulation of these two ions has been visible in PD. Too much iron in the brain has been studied and been shown to lead to PD, Alzheimer’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. Iron is important for the brain because it used to either reduce or oxidize molecules. Improper oxidation or reduction can lead to problems.

Like mentioned before, dysregulation of iron +2 and iron +3 has been seen in the brains of PD patients. One specific problem this causes in PD is the aggregation of alpha-synucleuin proteins due to iron radical molecules in the brain to form Lewy bodies. These Lewy bodies lead to death of neurons. One way this paper talked about treating the iron dysregulation is with iron chelators. Iron chelators are molecules which bind to iron and then remove it from the body. Iron chelators are therapeutic because they have antioxidant effects, prevent alpha-synucleuin aggregation, and can stabilize HIF (a molecule that is used to regulate transcription).

PD might not be as “hot” of a topic in terms of neurological disorders compared to others, but it still important to try to understand where it comes from and how it can be prevented and treated. Some people may feel disconnected from PD since it affects only a small part of the population. Further research into the mechanisms of PD could also bring about conclusions about other neurological disorders as well.

Since PD is diagnosed later in life, I think it may people don’t think much about preventing it. But, in my opinion, prevention is the best way to deal wit disease since it possibly alleviates having to treat the disease in the future. With the iron part of the PD story, it can be difficult since many women struggle with anemia. When trying to eat an iron-rich diet to control anemia, it would be unfortunate to develop PD as a consequence.

For people without anemia, in order to prevent PD it seems it would be important to eat a sufficient amount of iron to stay healthy, but keep the excess amount as low as possible.

The article also spoke about the positive effects of green tea in terms of PD. If this fact were made more public, it could be possible to help prevent/treat PD with the simple treatment of drinking or supplementation of green tea.

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