Elevated serum ferritin is associated with reduced survival in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45034. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045034. Epub 2012 Sep 14.


Background: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by the loss of motor neurons. Its etiology remains unknown, but several hypothesis have been raised to explain motor neuron death, including oxidative stress. Dysregulation of cellular iron metabolism can lead to increased oxidative stress, and existing data argue for a role of iron metabolism in ALS pathophysiology.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of iron metabolism (IM) variables (serum levels of iron, transferrin, ferritin, and TSC for Transferrin Saturation Coefficient) in a cohort of 694 ALS patients and 297 healthy controls.

Results: Serum ferritin levels and TSC were higher, whereas serum transferrin levels were lower in ALS patients than controls. In addition, patients with a high level serum ferritin had a shorter survival time compared to those with low level serum ferritin (618 days versus 921 days for men subgroup; p = .007). Site of onset and ALS-FRS score were not associated with IM variables.

Conclusion: This study suggests that ALS patients may have increased iron storage, as measured by increased serum ferritin and TSC. Elevated serum ferritin may also have a deleterious impact on survival in ALS.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / blood*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / mortality*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Transferrin / metabolism


  • Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.