Synthetic Iron Chelator Could Provide Breakthrough

Posted: January 15, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lynn Burke

The presence of too much iron in a person’s blood can be just as unhealthy as extremely low levels of iron. To remove the excess iron, patients must undergo therapy that uses chelators, molecules to which the iron will bind. Unfortunately, this intravenous treatment is difficult and painful. However, Paulette Royt, chair and associate professor of Biology, and her colleagues have made a discovery that may lead to chelation therapy that patients could more easily tolerate.

While studying a well-known iron-chelating compound that is secreted by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Royt isolated another iron-binding compound, pseudan. She then purified the compound and determined its structure. She and her research team were able to synthesize the molecule and show that the properties of the synthesized compound and the purified compound were nearly identical.

Humans retain excess iron for various reasons, including the presence of hemolytic anemia and hereditary or secondary hemochromatosis, says Royt. Iron overload can cause microbial infection, cardiomyopathy, arthropathy, neoplasia, and certain endocrine disorders, she adds.

Royt believes that the synthetic pseudan her team produced could be developed into an oral, more patient-friendly drug for chelation therapy, making further research with the synthetic pseudan attractive to pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Royt was joined in this research effort by Bob Honeychuck and Wayne Stalick of the Chemistry Department. More information on the research can be found in the upcoming January/February Mason Gazette.

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