A delicate balance: Iron metabolism and diseases of the brain

Front Aging Neurosci. 2013 Jul 18;5:34. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2013.00034. eCollection 2013.


Iron is the most abundant transition metal within the brain, and is vital for a number of cellular processes including neurotransmitter synthesis, myelination of neurons, and mitochondrial function. Redox cycling between ferrous and ferric iron is utilized in biology for various electron transfer reactions essential to life, yet this same chemistry mediates deleterious reactions with oxygen that induce oxidative stress. Consequently, there is a precise and tightly controlled mechanism to regulate iron in the brain. When iron is dysregulated, both conditions of iron overload and iron deficiencies are harmful to the brain. This review focuses on how iron metabolism is maintained in the brain, and how an alteration to iron and iron metabolism adversely affects neurological function.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; iron chelation; iron deficiency; iron regulation.