A study published in JAMA Neurology indicated that iron overload disorder (the gene mutation responsible for hereditary hemochromatosis) may be a risk factor for developing movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Abnormal iron absorption associated with hereditary hemochromatosis results in iron accumulation in the brain, liver, and pancreas and can cause significant organ damage.
A team of researchers at University of California San Diego, UC San Francisco, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Laureate Institute for Brain Research collaborated on this project. Researchers analyzed MRI scans of 836 participants. 165 participants at high genetic risk for iron overload disorder had substantial iron deposits localized to motor circuits of the brain.
Additional analysis of data on roughly 500,000 individuals found that males with high genetic risk for hemochromatosis were at 1.80-fold increased risk for developing a movement disorder than female participants. Women are less prone to iron absorption over the course of their lifetime due to menstruation and childbirth. The study found that males of European descent who carry two of the gene mutations (one inherited from each parent) were at greatest risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that hereditary hemochromatosis affects approximately 1 in 300 non-Hispanic White people.
The new data provides a better understanding of how iron accumulates in the brain. The amount of iron in the human brain increases approximately 30% over the course of life. According to senior author Dr. Chun Chieh Fan, "We hope our study can bring more awareness to hemochromatosis, as many high-risk individuals are not aware of the abnormal amounts of iron accumulating in their brains. Screening for early detection of this genetic disorder leads to more effective intervention strategies that can avoid more severe consequences.
Source: JAMA Neurology