An overall view of the process of the regulation of human iron metabolism
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Iron is a key component of many reactions in the human body, and by virtue of its ability to accept and donate electrons, it is required for a variety of normal cellular functions and is vital for proper growth and development. However, natural iron is rather insoluble and excess of iron is harmful since it can catalyze the formation of oxygen radicals. Fortunately, there are also mechanisms for protecting human body from excess 'free' iron. This is particularly important, given the fact that humans have very limited capacity to excrete iron. Therefore, cells have developed mechanisms to improve the solubility of iron to control intracellular iron concentrations at the point of iron absorption in the small intestine and other tissues. Since the described process is highly complex, a profound understanding of all the relationships occurring among its components is possible when a systems approach is applied to its analysis.
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D. Formanowicz, Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poland