A recent study published by the Buck Institute in an online publication called Aging, has yielded some interesting findings on the links between aging and iron. We do know that as we age the human body accumulates metals in its tissues. While we originally thought that iron was produced as a result of aging, Dr Lithgow, the lead author of the Buck Institute’s study, has demonstrated that iron is in fact a major contributor to the aging process.
The research team were initially focused on iron because of its association with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Using nematode C. elegans, they observed that as the worms aged, the levels of metals increased. They observed that iron accumulated much more than other metals. The researchers then changed the nematode’s diet and discovered some interesting results. Four day old worms were given iron for two days, and following this they resembled worms that were 15 days old. Iron was identified as the reason for their accelerated growth.
The research team were expecting to observe oxidative stress in the nematodes. However they did not find this: in fact they observed a typical aging process. This led them to concur that iron was leading the aging process.
The researchers then tested the worms with a metal chelator that is normally used to treat lead poisoning in humans, called CaEDTA. This chelator decreased the iron build-up and lengthened the life of the worms. It also protected a variety of nematodes that were developed to produce protein aggregations’ normally linked to human disease.
The conclusions drawn by Dr Lithgow were that finding the correct balance of metals is important for good health, however this mix can be easily disrupted with age. Dr Lithgow stated that there is great potential for future research and exploration in this area, as it hasn’t been extensively studied to date.