The role of iron in brain ageing and neurodegenerative disorders

Lancet Neurol. 2014 Oct;13(10):1045-60. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(14)70117-6.


In the CNS, iron in several proteins is involved in many important processes such as oxygen transportation, oxidative phosphorylation, myelin production, and the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters. Abnormal iron homoeostasis can induce cellular damage through hydroxyl radical production, which can cause the oxidation and modification of lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and DNA. During ageing, different iron complexes accumulate in brain regions associated with motor and cognitive impairment. In various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, changes in iron homoeostasis result in altered cellular iron distribution and accumulation. MRI can often identify these changes, thus providing a potential diagnostic biomarker of neurodegenerative diseases. An important avenue to reduce iron accumulation is the use of iron chelators that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, penetrate cells, and reduce excessive iron accumulation, thereby affording neuroprotection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Iron Chelating Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Nonheme Iron Proteins / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Nonheme Iron Proteins
  • Iron