Iron withholding: a defense against disease

J Alzheimers Dis. 2008 May;13(4):451-63. doi: 10.3233/jad-2008-13409.


Excessive and misplaced iron promotes an array of neurodegenerative and endocrine diseases as well as cardiomyopathy, arthropathy, neoplasia and infection. Vertebrates maintain an iron withholding defense system designed to prevent accumulation of redox-active (free) iron in sensitive sites and to sequester the metal in innocuous packages. Numerous genetic, behavioral and environmental factors counteract the defense system. Our increasing awareness of the pathologic roles of iron, as well as of the methods for prevention of iron loading coupled with intensified research and development of tissue specific iron chelator drugs, can be expected to yield marked improvements in human health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Coronary Artery Disease / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iron / adverse effects*
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron / physiology*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Virus Diseases / metabolism


  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Iron