The link between iron and Parkinson's was known, but not how it actually brings on the condition. Recent important research has shown that an excess of iron in neurons impairs cellular recycling resulting in toxic oxidative stress.

New research from the Andersen lab at the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing in California, suggests that the iron reduces the ability of the neurons to perform its cellular recycling. They believe that iron impairs lysosomes (the spherical vesicles inside cells which contain hydrolytic enzymes which act as cellular recycling centres for damaged proteins). This is turn allows excess iron to escape into the neurons where it causes toxic oxidative stress.

Dr Julie Andersen said: "It's recently been realised that one of the most important functions of the lysosome is to store iron in a place in the cell where it is not accessible to participate in toxic oxidative stress-producing reactions.

"Now we have demonstrated that a mutation in a lysosomal gene results in the toxic release of iron into the cell resulting in neuronal cell death."

The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience* explains how with age, the ability of the lysosome to participate in recycling becomes slower, resulting in the build-up of non-protein "garbage" within the cells.

The inability to process this has been associated with several age-related diseases, including Parkinson's (PD).

Now we have a more specific target that we can hit with a smaller hammer, which could allow us to selectively impact iron toxicity within the affected neurons.

Dr Andersen

The Cure Parkinson's Trust is interested in iron toxicity in neurons, particularly the use of the iron chelation drug Deferiprone to remove the build-up of excess iron from neurons in PD patients, a factor thought to contribute to the disease progression.

Source: Western Daily Press: January 26, 2016. Read the press article in full.
*Further reading - Scientific Paper : The Journal of Neuroscience - 27 January 2016, 36(4)