Celebrating 150 years of the periodic table
For the 150th anniversary of the periodic table, we asked our scientists about their favourite element
Prof. Dr. Claus Hellerbrand, Professorship of Biochemistry and Molecular Pathobiology, on iron:
“Iron is a vital, so called essential dietary mineral for the human body and we depend on its supply through nourishment. Although it is low in concentration, iron plays a vital role in the human body. Thus, iron is essential for the oxygen transportation in the blood and for the energy provision in the cell, among others. Inadequate supply of iron leads to different deficiencies, which can also occur with increased need (for example, during pregnancy) or with iron loss (when bleeding). The body is therefore very sparing with once taken iron and cannot excrete it again.
On the other hand, iron is toxic as a free ion; too much iron can be deposited in various organs and can cause heavy damages. Therefore, it is necessary that the intake of iron is very well regulated. One of my research interests is to understand how this regulations works, or what causes certain diseases to interfere with the interaction between the liver, where important messengers are produced for the regulation of iron intake, and the intestine, where iron resorption occurs. This is very exciting and that´s the reason why iron is one of my favourite elements.”