Iron–The Gold Mine in Our Body

I will be out of the country for two weeks, where I’m not sure if I’ll have internet access.  So I thought I’d leave you with an interesting fact which I had written back in September 2009 on FB.

You learn something new everyday. Well today I learned something interesting about iron (might not be new to some of you if you’ve studied pathophysiology). I was reading Dr. Sharon Moalem’s book: Survival of the Sickest.

In General:
Lack of Iron = Anemia = fatigue, confusion, dizziness, paleness, feeling cold etc.

Too much Iron = Hemochromatosis = arthritis, joint pain, liver failure, congestive heart failure etc to name a few.

What I learned:
– Every organism wants iron.
– Bacteria wants iron.
– We need iron (for carrying oxygen etc).
– Iron is GOLD, it is life and all organisms will do anything to have it.

1952, Eugene D. Weinberg did research on an antibiotic (Tetracycline) and its effectiveness against bacterial infection and found that when iron was introduced. It “powered up” the bacteria so well that it rendered the antibiotic useless.

Interesting. Iron is like spinach to Poppeye for bacteria.

Hmmm…that means our blood is flowing with a treasure that keeps us alive but is liable to kill us if our enemies get their hands on it. Lucky for us, we have some big bouncers (Chelator proteins) at the entrance to our body (eyes, nose, ears, mouth, genitals) that “locks up” iron to prevent it from being used by the “bad guys”. This is also activated in the blood stream during an infection. Much like a lock down with all the guards running out to do some serious bacteria butt-kicking.

Interesting fact:
Cancerous cells require iron to grow. So pharmaceuticals are trying to develop new drugs that will prevent iron from being accessed by cancerous cells.

Did you know…
… that if you have a cut, you can cover your wound with egg-white-soaked cloth and it’ll prevent bacterial infection since egg whites contains those “big bouncers” (chelators)

Pretty cool huh.


3 thoughts on “Iron–The Gold Mine in Our Body

  1. Very cool! On a related note, one of the most common causes of anemia (after iron deficiency) is called anemia of chronic disease. It happens in people who experience chronic inflammation from any cause (a good example is rheumatoid arthritis). Because the body thinks it is being infected by bugs, it slowly starts to hide all the iron with a molecule called hepcidin, and in the process you also end up being unable to use the iron to make hemoglobin.

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