Investigating Iron in Aging

This work on iron and aging in nematodes is interesting but still quite speculative at this stage: wait for studies along these lines to take place using mice before paying too much more attention to it.

It's been known for decades that some metals, including iron, accumulate in human tissues during aging and that toxic levels of iron have been linked to neurologic diseases, such as Parkinson's. Common belief has held that iron accumulation happens as a result of the aging process. But research in the nematode C. elegans shows that iron accumulation itself may also be a significant contributor to the aging process, causing dysfunction and malfolding of proteins already implicated in the aging process.

Researchers began manipulating the nematode's diet. "We fed iron to four day-old worms, and within a couple of days they looked like 15 day-old worms. Excess iron accelerated the aging process." Excess iron is known to generate oxidative stress and researchers expected to see changes in the worm based on that toxicity. "Instead, what we saw looked much more like normal aging. The iron was causing dysfunction and aggregation in proteins that have already been associated with the aging process. Now we're wondering if excess iron also drives aging."

Researchers also treated normal nematodes with the FDA-approved metal chelator CaEDTA - a drug that's used in humans at risk for lead poisoning. The drug slowed age-related accumulation of iron and extended the healthspan and lifespan of the nematodes. Researchers also gave the drug to worms genetically bred to develop specific protein aggregations implicated in human disease. The chelator was also protective in those animals. "This is a phenomena that has not been extensively studied by aging researchers and it's an area that has potential for positive exploitation, but CaEDTA has a very blunt mechanism of action and is associated with dangerous side effects in humans and the track record for other chelators is not well established."

Link: http://www.buckinstitute.org/buck-news/there-connection-between-heavy-metals-and-aging

Comments

Fascinating. Even if the effect isn't as pronounced for humans, I can't imagine that removing certain metals (e.g., lead) would be a bad thing.

Posted by: John at January 17th, 2015 12:14 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.