Leading Edge / Winter 2004
Eroding Iron Disorder

Blood pressure medication found to help

A drug used to treat hypertension may be the key to preventing excess iron from entering the heart, pancreas and pituitary gland in individuals with iron overload, according to researchers at U of T and Toronto General Hospital.

Iron overload is a common condition caused by genetic disorders involving blood cells that lead to elevated serum and tissue iron levels. In the case of the heart, excess iron leads to heart disease and, ultimately, heart failure. The researchers found that the pathways that transport calcium into the heart, pancreas and pituitary gland also transport surplus iron into these organs. They demonstrated that calcium channel blockers – medications traditionally used for high blood pressure – when given to mice with iron overload prevent iron from accumulating in the muscle cells of the heart, protecting these vital organs from irreversible damage.

Further testing on humans is still needed to establish whether this strategy will be an effective treatment for patients suffering from iron-overload blood disorders, says Dr. Peter Backx, a physiology and medicine professor at U of T and the senior author of the research paper.

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