High levels of haemosiderin occur in iron overload syndromes such as idiopathic haemochromatosis or secondary iron overload in thalassaemic patients; haemosiderin is the predominant iron-storage compound in such cases. It consists of a large aggregate of FeOOH cores, many of which have an incomplete shell of protein, and is probably derived from ferritin by lysosomal proteolysis. In addition, some chemical degradation of the ferritin cores appears to occur on conversion to haemosiderin. Other biochemical components are phosphate and magnesium, which may be adsorbed to the core surface, and perhaps certain lipids. Haemosiderin may have a central role, either directly or indirectly, in iron cytotoxicity and therefore the chemistry and biochemistry of this material warrants further study.