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Iron metabolism in the body - An overview

Iron is an essential mineral that is necessary for a variety of physiological processes in the body, including oxygen transport, energy production, and DNA synthesis. However, the human body cannot synthesize iron and therefore relies on dietary intake to meet its iron requirements.

Iron metabolism in the body involves several steps, including absorption, transport, storage, and utilization.

1. Absorption: Iron is primarily absorbed in the duodenum and upper jejunum of the small intestine. In the acidic environment of the stomach, iron is released from food sources and converted into its ferrous form (Fe2+). Ferrous iron is then transported into the intestinal epithelial cells via the divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1). Once inside the cell, iron is oxidized to its ferric form (Fe3+) by hephaestin, and then exported into the circulation via the iron exporter ferroportin.

2. Transport: In the bloodstream, iron is primarily bound to transferrin, a serum protein that transports iron to various tissues and organs throughout the body. Transferrin-bound iron is taken up by cells via the transferrin receptor 1 (TfR1), which is upregulated in response to cellular iron deficiency.

3. Storage: Iron that is not immediately needed for cellular processes is stored in the body's iron stores, which are primarily found in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. Iron storage is primarily regulated by the hormone hepcidin, which is produced by the liver in response to high levels of circulating iron. Hepcidin binds to ferroportin and triggers its internalization and degradation, thereby reducing iron export from cells.

4. Utilization: Iron is required for a variety of physiological processes, including the synthesis of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and various enzymes involved in energy production and DNA synthesis. In order to utilize iron, cells take up transferrin-bound iron via the transferrin receptor 1, and then transport it to the site of utilization.
Overall, iron metabolism in the body is tightly regulated to ensure that the body's iron requirements are met while minimizing the risk of iron toxicity. Dysregulation of iron metabolism can lead to a variety of disorders, including iron-deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis (iron overload), and anemia of chronic disease.