As individuals age, there is an increased amount of iron deposition in the brain, due in part to dysregulation of the proteins that regulate iron influx and sensing of intercellular iron stores. As a redox element, it can catalytically generate reactive oxygen species, leading to higher susceptibility to oxidative stress, and contributes to neurodegeneration.
Today an article by Loz Blain reports that iron may be implicated in possibel treatments for multiple sclerosis as well. In one study:
Dr. Paolo Zamboni took 65 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, performed a simple operation to unblock restricted bloodflow out of the brain – and two years after the surgery, 73% of the patients had no symptoms. Dr. Zamboni’s thinking could turn the current understanding of MS on its head, and offer many sufferers a complete cure.
Singh and Zamboni’s article (pdf) in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism indicates why this might be. Blood flow out of the brain often is blocked in MS patients, causing a high rate of cerebral venous reflux. In the main extracranial cervical vein the rate of venous reflux flow is 70% as compared to 0% in control populations. It is possible that this leads to extra iron deposition in the brain and is responsible for the autoimmune activation that leads to demyelination and scarring.
The academic article is much more nuanced in its claims that the popular article, as is to be expected.
Singh AV, Zamboni P. 2009 Anomalous venous blood flow and iron deposition in multiple sclerosis. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism 00:1–12.