Recent studies exploring iron levels in the brains of people with Parkinson’s have shown important implications for its use as a biomarker, as well as a way of potentially assessing the progression of the condition. Iron accumulation in the brain is an area of intense interest for Cure Parkinson’s, and we are supporting iron chelation studies through our International Linked Clinical Trials programme.

Iron is a mineral that is essential for our bodies to grow and function normally. The human body uses iron to make a protein called haemoglobin which helps red blood cells to carry vital oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. But as important as iron is to our bodies, too much of it can have negative effects. This is particularly relevant to people with Parkinson’s where iron is observed to accumulate in certain areas of the brain that are more severely affected by the condition. Scientists have recently found that this build-up of iron could represent a useful biomarker for Parkinson’s and help us to better understand the biology of the condition.

In 2020, a research team at University College London, led by Dr Rimona Weil, reported the results of a brain imaging study exploring iron in the brains of 100 people with Parkinson’s. Their data indicated that levels of iron in the brain can be used to track cognitive changes in Parkinson’s. Increases in brain iron levels were found to be a good predictor of poorer cognitive and motor function in Parkinson’s. This work could have important implications for both better determining disease progression as well as the selection of participants for clinical trials.

In a more recent report, the same researchers have used brain imaging techniques (measuring iron levels in many different brain regions in 96 people with Parkinson’s as well as 35 control participants) and combined this work with an analysis of the genomic and biological processes in those regions. The findings of this new study shed light on why certain regions of the brain are more vulnerable to higher levels of iron accumulation and subsequent neurodegeneration.

Cure Parkinson’s have been supporters of the ‘FAIR-PARK Study’, which is evaluating the potential of the iron chelator deferiprone as a disease modifying treatment for Parkinson’s.

We are also championing the next generation of iron chelators for Parkinson’s through the funding of preclinical research investigating the experimental drug SP-420 in models of Parkinson’s. SP-420 is being developed by the biotech company AbFero Pharmaceuticals.

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