A high dose of iron can trigger DNA damage within 10 minutes in the human body, says a study.
“We already knew that iron could be damaging to cells in very high doses. However, in this study we found that when we applied the kinds of levels of iron you would find in the blood stream after taking an iron tablet, this also seemed to be able to trigger cell damage — at least in the laboratory,” said Claire Shovlin, from the Imperial College London.
Physicians need to look carefully at the amount of iron given in standard treatments, such as tablets and infusions, and the effects this could be having on the human body, elicited the study.
Iron is essential for the body to function and plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen — low levels of which may cause anaemia resulting in tiredness and lethargy, the researchers said in the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The researchers used human endothelial cells that line blood vessels, and added a placebo or an iron solution of 10 micromolar (a similar concentration to that seen in the blood after taking an iron tablet).
Through looking at genes used within cells, and then examining the cells in more detail, they found that within ten minutes, cells treated with the iron solution had activated DNA repair systems.