Parkinsons… Iron Chelators… Green Tea??? (I Promise They’re All Connected)

Parkinson’s disease, iron, and green tea hardly seem like they could be related; however, by reading “Targeting dysregulation of brain iron homeostasis in Parkinson’s disease by iron chelators” I now believe they can all be connected. Parkinson’s disease is a well-known neurodegenerative disease. While many can identify symptoms of the disease, including tremor and muscle stiffness, the mechanism of pathology has yet to be understood completely. Scientists have been able to identify a loss of dopaminergic neurons in a region of the brain known as the substantia nigra pars compacta. The decrease in these neurons causes a decrease in the release of dopamine into the striatum. The loss of these neurons occurs as a result of the formation of Lewy bodies. While there are many substances that found in Lewy bodies, it is primarily the aggregation of a protein called alpha-synuclein that causes the formation of Lewy bodies. So how do iron and green tea fit into this picture? Elevated iron levels have been noted in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. Scientists believe that elevated iron levels may cause the generation and buildup of reactive oxygen species as well as intracellular alpha-synuclein. In addition, iron is able to increase the expression of alpha-synuclein and stabilize it as it aggregates. Free radicals allow for the protein to aggregate. Elevated iron levels seem to be an explanation behind Parkinson’s disease, so how should we deal with this?

Researchers are starting to look into drugs known as iron-chelators. These drugs aim to regulate iron levels in the brain, thus decreasing the pathological process described above. While some pharmaceuticals have had some success, there are some natural solutions that may prove to be very powerful. The paper discussed the benefits of a molecule known as EGCG that can be found in green tea. EGCG has been shown to act as an antioxidant as well as have the potential to bind excess iron to allow for its disposal. If iron plays a role in the pathology of Parkinson’s disease, the effects of EGCG and green tea seem promising. While pharmaceutical iron-chelators have shown promise as well, there is much to be said about utilizing natural substances rather than chemicals with unknown short-term and long-term effects. Regardless of natural methods or pharmaceutical methods, iron chelators seem to be a promising treatment for Parkinson’s.